Mmmm... Food Safety

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By Neetal Parekh on July 31, 2009 1:45 PM

In the wake of recent food recalls, foodborne illnesses, and reports of unhygienic food processing conditions noted in some factories, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act this week in a vote of 283 to 142, significantly increasing resources for food inspection and quality control.

The bill updates a national food safety program that has been largely left untouched over the century after it was introduced. It allocates $3.5 billion enabling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate new regulations, require more frequent inspections of processing plants, and increase record-keeping practices by companies.

Specifically, the FDA inspections would increase from the average of once per ten years to annual inspections for 'high-risk' facilities and once per three years for 'low-risk' facilities.   Food processors, importers, and other food handlers will be required to register with the FDA every year and pay an annual fee of $500 per food facility.

The FDA may be able to mandate food recalls rather than waiting for voluntary recall efforts by food producers.  The FDA might also roll up its its pants and step in the mud, by setting best practice standards for safe production of foods on farms and in manufacturing facilities. 

Imported food, which has largely been excluded from the FDA's radar, will have to meet identical food safety standards as domestically-grown food.  And in the age of tech savvy, the secretary of Health and Human Services will be tasked with identifying technology for following food from its origin through the supply chain, to be used by farmers, manufacturers, and distributors.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act is being applauded by the President and various food organizations and has the potential to be a positive change for small businesses.  Though it will require food companies to engage in more bookkeeping and meet more stringent standards, it may ultimately prove to renew credibility of food safety with the general public, leading to more stability in the produce and farming sectors.

 

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