The Impact of the Food Safety Modernization Act

By: Allie Gallant 

Bill S. 510, the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act, addresses the way in which food safety is regulated allowing the FDA sweeping new powers in relation to monitoring the private sector in regards to food safety issues. The FDA contends that preventative food safety measures are the best way to secure the safety of the food supply.

The bill passed the Senate in a bipartisan 73-25 vote but the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) was barely approved by the House of Representatives with a 212-206 vote and has been sent back to the Senate for another reading. The food safety bill passed the Senate before, but was held up by the house because the Senate had included provisions for collecting fees and according to the Constitution, all provisions in regards to revenue must originate from the House. Despite the difference between the Senate’s and House version of the bill, they must be reconciled before the President can sign it into official law.

Bill S. 510 extends the regulatory powers of the FDA, giving the agency full access to safety records and testing results including the power to order recalls, rather than having to rely on voluntary compliance by companies who may be unwilling to share information, opting instead to remove products through a recall.

The bill also requires all food manufacturers to have a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) food safety plan, or an acceptable equivalent, in place. An amendment introduced by Senator Jon Tester of Montana exempts food processors with annual sales under $500,000 from this rule – these smaller processors will be regulated by local and state law.

The legislation is estimated to cost about $1.4 billion over five years, a fact not lost on key opponents of the bill. However, food-borne illness costs the U.S. health care system $152 billion each year and close to 5000 lives, leading many to conclude how imperative it is to revisit the regulations surrounding food safety.

The question of whether or not the bill will generate change and enhance the safety of the food supply generates a “maybe”, from many. Giving the FDA more access and authority, performing risk analysis and targeting risks pre-emptively will undoubtedly have positive effects, but whether or not the bill makes a successful transition from paper to action is yet to be seen. However, most agree that the bill is a step in the right direction, and that the timing is right to initiate a regulatory overall and re-examine how we manage the safety of the food supply.


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