A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would give the Food and Drug Administration new authorities, tools and resources. The goal is to boost its ability to regulate food safety, and it is gaining support from food companies and some food industry associations.

Called the Food Safety Modernization Act, the bill is presented by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). It would increase inspection frequencies at all U.S. food facilities; give FDA expanded access to records and testing results, and allow FDA to mandate food product recalls if a company fails to do so at the agency's request.

This bill's directive to expand FDA's powers is different from a bill that Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced earlier this year, which would create a single food safety agency housed within the Health and Human Services Department.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Restaurant Association are supporting the Durbin bill. Food companies such as Kraft Foods, Kellogg's and General Mills, also are in favor of the Durban bill.

The Senate food safety bill includes the following:

  • Requires all facilities to have in place preventive plans to address identified hazards and prevent adulteration, and gives FDA access to these plans and relevant documentation.
  • Expands FDA access to records in a food emergency.
  • Allows FDA to recognize laboratory accreditation bodies to ensure U.S. food testing labs meet high quality standards and requires food testing performed by these labs to be reported to FDA.
  • Allows FDA to enable qualified third parties to certify that foreign food facilities comply with U.S. food safety standards.
  • Requires importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food.
  • Allows FDA to require certification for high-risk foods, and to deny entry to a food that lacks certification or that is from a foreign facility that has refused U.S. inspectors.
  • Increases FDA inspections at all food facilities, including annual inspections of high-risk facilities and inspections of other facilities at least once every four years.
  • Enhances food-borne illness surveillance systems to improve the collection, analysis, reporting, and usefulness of data on food-borne illnesses.
  • Requires the Secretary of HHS to establish a pilot project to test and evaluate new methods for rapidly and effectively tracking/tracing fruits and vegetables in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.
  • Gives FDA the authority to order a mandatory recall of a food product when a company fails to voluntarily recall the product upon FDA's request.
  • Empowers FDA to suspend a food facility's registration if there is a reasonable probability that food from the facility will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.
  • Directs FDA to help food companies protect their products from intentional contamination and calls for a national strategy to protect our food supply from terrorist threats and rapidly respond to food emergencies.
  • Increases funding for FDA's food safety activities through increased appropriations and targeted fees for domestic and foreign facilities.

Source: FDA, Meatingplace.com