Late this evening, President Obama signed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (S.510 included in HR 2751 bill). This extremely controversial bill has been debated for almost a year. The new legislation focuses giving the FDA authority to prevent foodborne illnesses instead of just reacting to them. Opponents of the bill worry that the FDA already has too much power and has not demonstrated actions in the best interest of consumers. The bill comes with a sizeable price tag: $1.4 billion over 5 years. The cost alone was enough to cause an uproar, especially amongst conservatives. Supporters of the bill point to the many recent foodborne illness attacks in recent years and the fact that the FDA’s food safety system has not seen major changes in over 70 years. Here is an overview of what we can expect:
The FDA will be required to develop new scientific standards for fruit and vegetable producers to use in their growing/harvesting and production. Meat and poultry are not covered under this legislation since it is regulated by the USDA.
The bill gives the FDA authority to issue a mandatory recall. Currently, they can only recommend a recall and must involve other parties (states/courts) if the recall is not implemented.
The FDA will implement a searchable database and increase food tracking capabilities. In addition, all recall product information must be readily available on public website.
The number of annual FDA inspections both in the US and abroad will increase. Higher-risk facilities will have additional inspection requirements. The FDA will likely have to hire many new inspectors to meet the increased inspection requirements.
The the relief of many of the bill’s opponents, the final version of the bill did include certain exemptions for small farms (the Tester Amendment) and food producers. There are many questions surrounding when the bill goes into effect. Some parts of the bill will be implemented immediately, such as giving the FDA authority to issue mandatory recalls. Other parts of the legislation will require people, technology, and the writing of new standards. This will take time and may not be implemented for several years.
image: Svetlana Privezentseva