Historic Bipartisan Food Safety Bill Passes Senate

73 -25 Vote Sends Landmark Food Safety Bill to House

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act passed the Senate today marking most comprehensive reform of the nation’s food safety system in over a decade. The bipartisan bill, initiated 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.


“Today’s vote will finally give the FDA the tools it needs to help ensure that the food on dinner tables and store shelves is safe,” Durbin said. “This bill 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, 76 million Americans suffer from preventable foodborne illness. 325,000 are hospitalized each year because of food contamination and 5,000 die. Every 5 minutes 3 people are rushed to the hospital because the food they ate made them sick, and at the end of the day 13 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 passage of today’s bill is by far the most important improvement in the way our nation protects the food supply in more than a decade.


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. A one-page summary of the bill and a section-by-section of its provisions are attached.


“Since I first introduced this bill more than two years ago, I’ve had the strong support of Senators Gregg, Dodd, Burr and Alexander. I want to thank them and recognize the extraordinary efforts of Senators Harkin and Enzi. Without their work on this bill we would not be where we are today.”


Recent outbreaks of food-borne illness and nationwide recalls of contaminated food from both domestic and foreign sources highlight the need to modernize and strengthen our nation’s food safety system. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a bipartisan plan that provides new food safety tools and updates food safety standards to ensure the safety of our food supply.


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.


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.


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 30 groups, representing both consumers and industry, support the bill including: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Federation of America; Consumer’s Union; Food Marketing Institute; Grocery Manufacturers of America; National Restaurant Association; PEW Charitable Trust; Safe Tables are Our Priority (STOP); Sargento; and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.