Obama Signs Food Safety Bill

WASHINGTON — President Obama last week signed the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act, although some Congressional leaders have questioned its $1.4 billion cost and have indicated they may seek to block funding to limit the law's scope. When one considers the record deficits our country faces and the renewed focus on fiscal restraint in the U.S. House of Representatives, it's

WASHINGTON — President Obama last week signed the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act, although some Congressional leaders have questioned its $1.4 billion cost and have indicated they may seek to block funding to limit the law's scope.

“When one considers the record deficits our country faces and the renewed focus on fiscal restraint in the U.S. House of Representatives, it's going to be very difficult to find the money to pay for implementation of the bill,” a spokesman for Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, who sits on the appropriations subcommittee that deals with the FDA, was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times.

Much of the price tag would be spent on adding about 1,800 new FDA inspectors, as the law calls for increased inspections. All high-risk domestic facilities must be inspected within five years of enactment and no less than every three years thereafter.

Among other things, it also gives the FDA the power to order food recalls, requires that food producers have a hazard-based food safety plan in place, and seeks to strengthen cooperation among various national, state and local food safety agencies.

“For all the strengths of the American food system, a breakdown at any point on the farm-to-table spectrum can cause catastrophic harm to the health of consumers and great disruption and economic loss to the food industry,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.

Some industry associations have long supported the law's passage, citing its emphasis on prevention and increased scrutiny of imports.

“This law will enhance the safety of our food supply by requiring every food producing company to have a written food safety plan, by providing the FDA the authority to recall products, by recognizing third-party certification plans, and by adopting a risk-based approach to food safety inspections,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute. “Working together, we all will play an important role to prevent foodborne illnesses and strengthen the safety of our food supply.”

Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO, Grocery Manufacturers Association, also thanked Obama for his support. “Today's bill signing marks a historic moment for our country — as it represents the most comprehensive reform of our nation's food safety laws in more than 70 years. This landmark legislation provides FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help strengthen our nation's food safety system by making prevention the focus of our food safety strategies, and will help restore the public's faith in the safety and security of the food supply.”