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Legislation to overhaul the way the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food safety has passed the House. The large scale changes to FDA food regulation now move to the Senate.
One new power the FDA would have under this legislation is the power to order the recall of tainted foods.
You might have thought they could already do that, but currently they are only allowed to ask companies to voluntarily issue recalls.
The bulk of the enhanced food safety upgrades relate to the inspection of food processing plants. In the wake of recent tainted food crises, critics have complained that plants often go many years without a visit from the food safety inspector.
Currently, food processing plants get inspected every 10 years. As the New York Times reports, under the new Food Safety Act, infrequest inspections would no longer be the case.
Most importantly, processing plants deemed high-risk by the FDA would be inspected every 6 to 12 months. High-risk plants would include plants processing foods that spoil quickly and plants that have had food safety problems in the past. Lower risk processing plants would be inspected every 3 years.
The cost of these inspections is to partially be covered by annual fees of $500 for food processing plants.
Beyond inspections, the Food Safety Act would require food processing plants to come up with detailed safety plans to mitigate and contain any problems that arise.
The food safety rules applicable to US food producers would also apply to food importers under the new rules.
Though we'll have to wait and see what form it would take, the FDA would be requireed to come up with a system to better track food ingredients, in order to better trace future food related outbreaks.