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A new bill being put to the United States Senate zeroes in on "bad actors" in the food industry. Currently, the FDA can tell a company to recall suspect food, but if that company refuses to comply (i.e., "acts badly"), the FDA has limited ability to force follow-through. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, or S. 510, is intended to expand the FDA's authority in these matters. A similar bill passed through the House months ago, but got held up in the Senate's recent logjam of health care and financial reform. Now the bill is receiving new attention, reports the Minnesota Star-Tribune, in the wake of a rash of tainted food recalls.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., lead sponsor of the bill, explained to Minnesota Public Radio that the latest troubles with eggs, peanut butter, and jalapeño peppers underscore the need for enhanced legislation. "I think we can do a lot better with our food safety system," she told reporters. "...There is a glaring problem with the FDA and a glaring problem with resources and their lack of authority to do recalls and get company records."
The Food Safety Modernization Act addresses FDA involvement in oversight of food production, increasing the number of inspections as well as establishing regional CDC outlets to deal more closely with local public health communities. The bill also spells out protections for whistle-blowers, especially employees involved in processing or packaging food items.
The bill is expected to pass the Senate, and President Obama is likely to sign it, Klobuchar says. "Government has to respond to protect consumers of this country and also to protect businesses because if people are scared to buy certain products they're not going to go shopping," she told Minnesota Public Radio. "And that's just not right."