One of the most prominent accomplishments from the lame duck session of the 111th Congress will become a reality on Tuesday.
President Obama is set to sign the Food Safety Modernization Act into law this week. It will usher in sweeping changes to the way specific foods are handled in the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now have expanded powers to regulate approximately 80 percent of the nation’s food supply, including the major growers that contribute to the industry. The FDA will also have more access to growers’ records and the ability to perform more recalls on tainted food items.
Growers and domestic and international food production facilities will now have to develop and implement food safety plans if they are serving U.S. consumers.
The new legislation will not cover meat or poultry products because they fall under the direction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
At least some of the changes are in response to major issues with tainted foods, including lettuce, eggs, and peanuts in recent years. The FDA wanted to turn away from its normally reactive stance to food scares. This meant that no longer would they address food issues only when mass amounts of people were sickened with tainted products. The new plan is designed to add accountability and a greater system of checks and balances to the food safety mix.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics about the impact of foodborne illnesses on Americans. According to the agency, each year 48 million Americans are exposed to contaminated food, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.
Federal officials are using these sobering statistics and growing public sentiment toward safer food choices to hail the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
In a conference call with reporters, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressed confidence in the new legislation and the changes it will bring.
“[The Food Safety Modernization Act] will bring our food safety system into the 21st century, improving health [and] saving lives. [It will] help Americans feel confident that when they sit down at the dinner table they won’t end up in the hospital,” said Secy. Sebelius.
Upon returning from his Hawaiian holiday vacation, President Obama is scheduled to sign the Food Safety Modernization Act into law on Tuesday.