Food Safety Legislation Update

Articles
December 10, 2009

Food Safety Legislation Update

Two bills, one in the house and another in the Senate, represent major reforms of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which covers food safety in the U.S. as far as the Food & Drug Administration is concerned.

While the Healthcare debate and Afghanistan have received the lion’s share of media attention, there has been another hot topic before both houses of Congress this year on which there has been activity recently, according to the The Food Institute. Two bills, one in the house and another in the Senate, represent major reforms of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which covers food safety in the U.S. as far as the Food & Drug Administration is concerned.

As far as FDA reforms go, however, the House of Representatives passed major food safety legislation introduced by Michigan Democrat John Dingel back in July and had been moving ahead quickly before Congress shifted attention to the healthcare debate.
Just last month in the Senate, a bipartisan bill introduced on by Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin was unanimously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. It is expected that this legislation will reach the Senate early next year at this point.

Enactment of food safety legislation in the first half of 2010 is likely.

Overall, the bills H.R. 2749 in the House and S. 510 in the Senate include many similar provisions:

  •  Both would grant FDA sweeping new enforcement authorities.
  •  Both would establish substantial new regulatory requirements for importation of foods.

But there are some key differences:

  • H.R. 2749 would require food facilities to re-register and pay a registration fee annually. S. 510 would require food facilities to re-register biennially but would not impose registration fees.
  • H.R. 2749 would require that FDA issue regulations creating a “tracing system for food” that would enable FDA to identify each person that grows, produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, holds, or sells an article of food within two business days. S. 510 would require FDA to issue regulations regarding tracing of fruits and vegetables that are raw agricultural commodities. For processed foods, S. 510 would require FDA to establish a pilot project to evaluate methods for improving traceability, but it would not mandate a tracing system.
  • H.R. 2749 would authorize FDA to quarantine geographic areas within the United States if there is credible evidence an article of food presents an imminent threat of serious adverse health consequences. S. 510 has no comparable provision.
  • H.R. 2749 would authorize FDA to assess civil fines for each prohibited act up to $50,000 per violation, with a cap of $100,000 in any single proceeding. For corporations, it authorizes fines up to $500,000 per violation, with a cap of $7.5 million in any single proceeding. S. 510 would authorize FDA to assess civil fines only for failure to comply with a recall order.
  • H.R. 2749 would provide that a processed food is misbranded unless its labeling identifies the country where final processing occurred. S. 510 has no comparable provision.

To keep abreast of these bills turn to the Food Institute Report.