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Food Safety Legislation
Information and Facts

The food safety legislation which passed the Senate with broad, bipartisan support responds to several food safety outbreaks in recent years by strengthening the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and redoubling its efforts to prevent and respond to food safety concerns.

This includes re-focusing the FDA’s inspection regime based on risk assessments, such that high-risk facilities will be inspected more frequently, and expanding current registration and inspection authority for the FDA.  The bill requires food processors to conduct a hazard analysis of their facilities and implement a plan to minimize those hazards.  As was seen with the peanut butter and egg recalls, FDA inspectors had neglected to visit either facility for years.  This authority will allow the FDA to better target its resources, focusing inspections on the riskiest facilities, whether they are handling risky product, using more complex processing systems, or are found to be in violation of current food safety standards.

The bill also requires the FDA to recognize bodies that accredit food safety laboratories domestically, and these bodies may accredit laboratories located overseas.  The bill enhances partnerships with state and local officials regarding food safety outbreaks, and it provides for increased inspections of inspect foreign facilities.  Imported food should have to meet the same standards as the food produced in America.

For example, the bill requires importers to undertake a risk-based foreign supplier verification program to ensure that imported food meets appropriate federal requirements and is not adulterated or misbranded.  It also requires the FDA to establish regulations for the foreign supplier verification program within one year of enactment.  Importers’ records relating to foreign supplier verification would be maintained for at least two years.

It also permits the FDA to require, as a condition of importation, a certification “that the article of food complies with applicable requirements of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The bill requires the FDA’s determination of certification requirements to be made based on the known safety risks associated with the food and the known food safety risks associated with the country of origin of the food.

The legislation also gives the FDA the power to order mandatory food recalls, in the event that a food company cannot or does not comply with a request to recall its products voluntarily.  Currently, if a food borne illness outbreak occurs, the FDA has to ask the company to voluntarily pull contaminated items off the shelves.  Sometimes companies either do not comply with the request, or do not comply in an expedited fashion, and so consumers remain in the dark and at the whim of the companies’ conscience.  This bill will give the FDA the authority to force the recall and pull contaminated product off the grocery store shelves.

The bill does NOT change the existing jurisdictional boundaries between FDA and the Department of Agriculture, and includes protections for farms and small businesses.

To help protect these farms and small businesses, one of the provisions of the bill exempts small farms and small food processing facilities from certain provisions. These exemptions are split into two categories: food facilities and farms.

Food facilities would qualify for an exemption from the preventive control/HACCP provisions if (1) the facility is either a “very small business” as defined by the FDA in rulemaking; or (2) the average annual monetary value of all food sold by the facility during the previous 3 year period was less than $500,000, but only so long as the majority of the food sold by that facility was sold directly to consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores and were in the same state where the facility sold the food or within 275 miles of the facility.  Facilities would still have to comply with one of the following: (1) demonstrate that potential hazards have been identified and preventive controls are being implemented to address the hazards, or (2) demonstrate to the FDA that the facility is in compliance with state or local food safety laws.

Farms would also qualify for an exemption from the produce safety standards if, during the previous 3 year period, the average monetary value of the food they sold was less than $500,000, but only so long as the majority of sales were to consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores and were in the same state where the farm harvested or produced the food or within 275 miles of the farm. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the past few months inaccurate information has circulated that this legislation, among other things, would somehow prevent or control what individuals grew in their own gardens, would harm current organic standards, or give the FDA new authority to inspect farms regardless of size. These rumors are not true.  Click here to access a “Frequently Asked Questions” handout to further explain some of the misconceptions surrounding this legislation. The document was prepared by the Health Labor Education and Pensions (HELP) Committee which had jurisdiction over this bill.

Click here to listen to Senator Grassley interviewed on KSCJ radio in Sioux City regarding the bill (recorded 11-30-10).