WASHINGTON – On Dec. 21, the House of Representatives passed the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Bill for a third time by a vote of 215 to 144, the American Meat Institute relays. During consideration in the Senate, S. 510, FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was attached as a substitute to H.R. 2751. The Senate passed H.R. 2751 during a rare weekend session on Sunday, Dec. 19, by unanimous consent.

H.R. 2751 would increase government oversight of the food sector by expanding the FDA authority with mandatory recalls, increased inspection rates, collection of fees and require all facilities to have a food-safety plan.

"The Food Safety bill will provide the Federal Government with improved tools to prevent foodborne illness and address challenges in the food safety system by promoting a prevention-oriented approach," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "I applaud leaders in Congress for passing this important bill and look forward to President Obama signing this legislation. Protecting consumers from harm is a fundamental function of government and with passage of this landmark food-safety legislation USDA remains committed to keeping food safety a top priority."

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) commended Congress for passage of landmark food-safety legislation, which represents the largest changes in the country’s food-safety laws in more than 70 years. These changes will be discussed at a special food safety forum on January 7th, 2011.

The legislation has a variety of new changes that will improve the safety of the food system from farm-to-fork, IFT relays. Four elements of this legislation are critical to protecting the food supply for generations to come, it added:

  • Product tracing — FDA will be required to establish a comprehensive product tracing system to track the movement of food products effectively from farm to point of sale or service. As IFT pointed out in a report issued to the FDA, a product-tracing system would make it possible to identify the source of foodborne illness outbreaks earlier as well as contain the outbreak faster.
  • Performance standards — In order to continually reduce the risk of contaminants in foods, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will identify and determine the most significant foodborne contaminants and develop science-based guidance to assist food producers. As a result, action levels (performance standards) will be set in place to encourage the food industry to strive toward a safer food supply.
  • Third-party certification — Designated imported foods will now need to be certified by a third party with expertise in food safety and under the oversight of the FDA. This will enable the FDA to maximize resources and increase the number of product inspections to better ensure the safety of imported foods.
  • Preventive control plans — Food manufacturing facilities will be required to develop and implement written plans based upon science that evaluate hazards that could affect the safety of food; identify and implement preventive controls; monitor the performance of these controls; and maintain records of such monitoring.