November 29, 2010

Senate Bill To Increase FDA’s Authority

A Senate bill set to pass this week would give the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to conduct inspections more frequently and order a recall of tainted products, according to a Monday article by Associated Press (AP) writer Mary Claire Jalonick.

Currently, the FDA has to negotiate with food manufacturers in order to issue a voluntary product recall. In addition to changing that process, Jalonick reports that the proposed legislation would also require "food manufacturers and farms to follow stricter safety standards" and would "emphasize prevention so the agency could try to stop the outbreaks before they begin."

"Supporters say passage is critical in the wake of large-scale outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli in peanuts, eggs and produce," the AP writer said in her report. "Those outbreaks have exposed a lack of resources and authority at the FDA as the embattled agency struggled to contain and trace the contaminated products. The agency rarely inspects many food facilities and farms, visiting some every decade or so and others not at all."

The bill has come under fire from advocacy groups, who had claimed that it could bankrupt smaller farms and hurt those who preferred to purchase locally produced foodstuffs. Prior to their Thanksgiving recess, however, Senators agreed to a measure that would exempt some smaller farms and manufacturers from portions of the bill intended for larger companies, Jalonick said.

"Whether the food safety bill can make it to the president's desk during the brief lame-duck congressional session is unclear since the House passed a different version of the legislation in 2009," she added. "Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the sponsor of the bill, said he has agreement from some members in the House to take up the Senate bill if it is passed."

The latest in a series of food-related recalls came on November 24, when Bravo farms announced that they were recalling cheese products due to "Listeria and E. coli contamination at their plant," according to an FDA press release. The affected products include Sage Cheddar, Silver Mountain Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, Premium Block Cheddar, Premium White Chunk Cheddar, Chipotle Chunk Cheddar, and White Black Wax Cheddar cheeses packaged at the company's Traver, California plant.


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