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House of Representatives passed the “historic” food safety inspections

2 August 2009 1,297 views No Comment

Following the last few years of food-borne illness outbreaks in everything from spinach to processed cookie dough, the House of Representatives completed the first step to revamping nationwide food production regulations Thursday.

A $3.5 billion measure, which the Senate will vote on later this year, would be financed by a $500 annual fee paid by producers, and would require the FDA to write new regulations, require food companies to keep more meticulous records and require more inspections of food production plants.

The bill passed easily in a bipartisan 283 to 142 vote, with 20 Democrats voting against the measure and 54 Republicans voting in favor. Opponents argued that the new regulations would impose unnecessary bureaucracy on small farmers.

If the measure makes it through the Senate and past the president’s desk, it will require Food and Drug Administration inspections of “high-risk” plants, such as those with a record of outbreaks or who handle easily-spoiled items like fish, every 6 to 12 months. Currently, some plants go more than 10 years without an inspection, the New York Times reported.

One of the bill’s biggest provisions allows the FDA to order mandatory recalls of tainted food, a power currently held by the companies. The FDA would also have to implement a system wherein food ingredients and finished products would be thoroughly documented, to more quickly find the source should another outbreak occur.

The measure does not, however, increase regulation on meat, poultry and eggs, as those products are the purview of the Department of Agriculture, which are already more tightly regulated than the 80 percent of food products that the FDA controls.

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