Following delays of more than a year, and recalls of everything from eggs to gorgonzola cheese to cilantro, the Senate has finally passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, a bill that will, if passed by the House, fundamentally alter the government’s role in ensuring the safety of the country’s food supply.
The new, $1.4 billion bill — which is expected to get the support of the House, which passed its own, more comprehensive food safety bill last year — will give the Food and Drug Administration more power to trace the source of contamination and order product recalls. It will also require food processed at foreign facilities to meet U.S. safety standards, and require U.S. facilities to implement food safety protection plans.
Notably, given the rise of farmers’ markets across the country, the legislation includes exemptions for farmers who make less than $500,000 in yearly revenue and market their goods to consumers within a 275-mile radius.
Although not as exacting as the House’s bill, which, among other things, would have placed fees on food facilities to fund the FDA’s inspection efforts, the Senate bill is still a big deal: Among other things, it marks the first time the country’s food safety laws have been updated in 70 years. Given that an estimated 76 million Americans suffer from food-borne illnesses each year, it’s change that some 5.32 billion of us can believe in.
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