Senate passes Food Safety and Modernization Act: Yea or Nay?

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By a vote of 73 to 25, the Senate yesterday passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act. The bill, which was opposed by TV news commentator and Tea Party activist Glenn Beck, among others, will now be up for consideration by the House of Representatives.

The bill would give the FDA the power to mandate food recalls — authority it has not previously possessed. Its stated aim is to improve procedures assuring food safety. One Senate foe of the bill was Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who attacked the bill’s $1.4 billion four-year cost and said the FDA simply needed to better enforce current regulations.

The bill was initially opposed by small farm organizations that claimed it would place onerous regulatory costs upon them that might drive many out of business altogether. But an amendment added at the behest of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana exempted small farms and roadside purveyors, bringing them on board.

Arguing in favor of the bill, ACSH’s Susan Ingber points out that the FDA lacks resources — especially enforcement and inspection powers — to do its present work. ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, in stressing the importance of an uncontaminated food supply, says that “you can’t get away from the fact that about 5,000 people are killed in the United States every year by food-borne illness, and hundreds of thousands are sickened — and those are likely underestimates at that.”