Senate Democrats

Senate Votes to Debate Food Safety Legislation

Recent outbreaks of food-borne illness and nationwide recalls of contaminated food from both U.S. and foreign sources highlight the need to refine and modernize our nation’s food safety system. In response to this need, Democrats and Republicans crafted bipartisan legislation called the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that will address many of our food safety system’s weaknesses while minimizing regulatory burden. A vote to proceed to a debate on this bill is set for today.

Kathleen Chrismer, a food-safety victims’ advocate, applauded the bill, saying of this legislation, “[It’s] the closest we’ve gotten in over 20 years to acceptable food safety reform that will prevent contaminated food from entering the marketplace, instead of forcing producers and FDA to scramble to react in the aftermath of a major outbreak.”

Specifically, the food safety bill improves our capacity to protect our nation’s food supply by making the following improvements:

  • Hazard analysis and preventive controls — Focuses on prevention of contamination by ensuring that each facility develops and implements a food safety plan to identify, evaluate and address hazards and prevent adulteration.
  • Records access during a food safety emergency — Helps contain a food safety emergency by providing FDA access to certain facility records.
  • 3rd party testing — Recognizes laboratory accreditation bodies to ensure that U.S. food testing labs meet high quality standards, and requires applicable lab results to be reported to FDA.
  • Imports — Ensures imported food meets the same safety standards as domestic food by requiring importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food.

The bill also improves our capacity to detect and respond to food-borne illness outbreaks through advancements in inspection, surveillance, traceability, mandatory recall and suspension of facility’s registration.

With 20 co-sponsors, including eight Republicans, there’s no reason this legislation should not receive majority support in the Senate. “For far too long, the headlines have told the story of why this measure is so urgently needed: foodborne illness outbreaks, product recalls and Americans sickened over the food they eat,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “This 100-year-old plus food safety structure needed to be modernized.”