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U.S. House Passes Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009


Key provisions of the House bill include:
•    Inspections. FDA inspections of food facilities would increase from about once every 10 years to at least annually for high-risk facilities and at least once every three years for facilities deemed a low risk. FDA inspectors will have access to company records.
•    Registration. Food processors, importers and other food handlers will be required to register annually with the FDA and pay a yearly fee of $500 for each food facility they operate.
•    Recalls. The FDA could mandate the recall of tainted foods, instead of relying solely food makers to voluntarily pull items from the market.
•    Safe Practices. For the first time, the FDA could set standards for safe production of food on farms, as well as require food manufacturers to meet safety standards.
•    Imports. Companies importing food to the United States must meet the same safety standards as domestic food producers.
•    Traceability. The secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to identify technology that can be used by food growers, manufacturers and distributors to determine the origin of food and its movement in the supply chain.

On this last point, the International Foodservice Distributors Association points out, “On traceability the bill requires FDA to issue regulations creating a traceability system but allows the agency considerable latitude in the creation of the system. The bill also includes civil monetary penalties which could apply to even minor paperwork violations. The legislation authorizes fines of up to $250,000 per company with a $1 million cap per proceeding. Knowing violations can result in fines of up to $500,000 per company with a maximum of $7.5 million per proceeding.”

Commenting on behalf of the restaurant industry, Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, applauded the bill’s sponsors. “We are pleased with the legislation’s focus on prevention, increased resources and risk-based approach to targeting those resources. The safety of the food supply continues to be the restaurant industry’s number one priority, and we—like consumers—rely on a supply chain that needs to provide restaurants with safe food to serve guests. We have been a strong supporter of comprehensive reforms that increase consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply. Confidence in the food supply is critical to the success of our industry and to consumers across America.”

Sweeney added that while the NRA believes the Food Safety Enhancement Act is a good step toward achieving a safe food supply, “we are still encouraging improvements to be made to the final legislation. We look forward to furthering our work with Congress as legislation moves through the process."

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