[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama today, marking most comprehensive reform of the nation’s food safety system in over decades.
The bipartisan bill, authored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), will grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authorities and resources to ensure the safety of our food supply.
“With the signing of this bill into law, the FDA finally has the tools it needs to ensure that the food on dinner tables and store shelves is safe,” Durbin said. “The new law will have a dramatic impact on the way the FDA operates – providing it with more resources for inspection, mandatory recall authority, and the technology to trace an outbreak back to its source. I am proud of the work we have done, but our vigilance must continue.”
Every year, 48 million Americans suffer from preventable foodborne illness. 128,000 are hospitalized each year because of food contamination and 3,000 die. Every 4 minutes someone is rushed to the hospital because the food they ate made them sick, and at the end of the day 8 will die.
Senator Durbin has been working on reforming the nation’s food supply for more than a decade. He has authored bills to strengthen the food safety structures at FDA and the US Department of Agriculture, proposed the creation of a single food safety agency, and supported increased inspection and protection of foreign food imports. He has passed legislation to improve the safety of school lunches and as an appropriator, he has dramatically increased funding for food safety agencies and programs.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act focuses on four key areas where FDA’s authorities and resources need to be improved: food-borne illness prevention; food-borne illness detection and response; food defense capabilities; and overall resources.
Improves Our Capacity to Detect and Respond to Food-borne Illness Outbreaks
- Inspection –Increases the number of FDA inspections at all food facilities.
- Surveillance – Enhances food-borne illness surveillance systems to improve the collection, analysis, reporting, and usefulness of data on food-borne illnesses.
- Traceability – Enhances tracking and tracing of high-risk foods and directs the Secretary to establish a pilot project to test and evaluate new methods for rapidly and effectively tracking and tracing food in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.
- Mandatory Recall – Allows FDA to initiate a mandatory recall of a food product when a company fails to voluntarily recall the contaminated product upon FDA’s request.
- Suspension of Registration – Allows FDA to suspend a food facility’s registration if there is a reasonable probability that food from the facility will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.
Improves Our Capacity to Prevent Food Safety Problems
- Hazard analysis and preventive controls: Facilities must identify, evaluate, and address hazards and prevent adulteration via a food safety plan. In certain circumstances, gives FDA access to these plans and relevant documentation.
- Access to facility records: Expands FDA access to a registered facility’s records in a food emergency.
- 3rd party testing: Provides for laboratory accreditation bodies to ensure U.S. food testing labs meet high quality standards and, in certain circumstances, requires food testing performed by these labs to be reported to FDA. Allows FDA to enable qualified 3rd parties to certify that foreign food facilities comply with U.S. food safety standards.
- Imports: Requires importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food. Allows FDA to require certification for high-risk foods, and to deny entry to a food that lacks certification or that is from a foreign facility that has refused U.S. inspectors.
Enhances U.S. Food Defense Capabilities – Directs FDA to help food companies protect their products from intentional contamination, and calls for a national strategy to protect our food supply from terrorist threats and rapidly respond to food emergencies.
Increases FDA Resources – Authorizes increased funding for FDA’s food safety activities, such as hiring personnel, and includes targeted non-compliance fees for domestic and foreign facilities.
Regulatory Flexibility – Modernizes our food safety system without being burdensome. Provides training for facilities to comply with the new safety requirements and includes special accommodations for small businesses and farms. Exempts small businesses from certain aspects of the produce standards and preventive control requirements.
More than 35 groups, representing government, consumers and industry, support the bill including: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt; Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; American Bakers Association; American Beverage Association; American Feed Industry Association; American Public Health Association; Associated Food Stores; Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention; Center for Science in the Public Interest; CHEP Americas; Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union; Council for Responsible Nutrition; Flavor and Extracts Manufacturers Association; Food & Water Watch; Food Marketing Institute; Grocery Manufacturers Association; Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils; International Bottled Water Association; International Dairy Foods Association; National Consumers League; National Association of Manufacturers; National Coffee Association of USA; National Confectioners Association; National Kidney Foundation; National Milk Producers Federation; National Restaurant Association; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; New Jersey Food Council; Organic Trade Association; PEW Charitable Trusts; Safe Tables are Our Priority (STOP); Sargento; Snack Food Association; Trust for America’s Health; United Egg Producers; United Natural Products Alliance; and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.