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Food Politics

Politics of the Plate: New Hope for Food Safety

A laudable new bill would give the FDA more funding and expanded authority to monitor our food supply.
peanut corp

Despite being embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings following a salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 650 people, The Peanut Corporation of America apparently has succeeded in one area where the Obama administration has thus far failed: inspiring a spirit of bipartisanship in Washington.

Earlier this week, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), and Richard Burr (R-NC) came together to introduce the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. According to a press release from Sen. Durbin, the bill, which “follows closely on the heels of one of the largest food recalls in the nation’s history,” will give the FDA more funding and—importantly—more authority to monitor our food supply and order recalls when necessary. (Presently the agency may only suggest that processors and packers voluntarily recall contaminated foods.)

“Over the last year we’ve seen major recalls of peanut butter spiked with salmonella, spinach laced with E. coli and chili loaded with botulism,” Sen. Durbin says in the release.

If passed, the bill will:

· increase the frequency of FDA inspections at all food facilities

· enhance surveillance systems to improve collection of data on food-borne illnesses

· require the testing of new methods for rapidly tracking foods in the event of an outbreak

· suspend a food facility’s registration if there is reason to believe that its products might cause serious health problems

Let’s hope this bill sails through the Senate and House. As Durbin’s press release notes: “Had any of these provisions been in place, the scope of the recent Salmonella outbreak could have been drastically reduced and the FDA’s response time dramatically improved.”