Food Safety

The Senate on Monday debated legislation that would empower the Food and Drug Administration to order recalls of contaminated food and impose fines for violations of food safety laws. The bill also would require more frequent inspections of large food production plants. Imported foods would be subject to the same standards as those made in the United States.  "Our current system does not adequately protect the nation’s food supply," Sen. Bernie Sanders said.   An amendment added in the Senate health committee by Sanders exempts low-risk processing on small farms.

Sanders' provision applies to small farms that engage in value-added processing or that co-mingle products from several farms.  He said, "I firmly believe that not all foods and processing are equally risky and that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work." It gives FDA the authority to either exempt farms engaged in low-risk processing from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations.  Existing FDA regulations already exempt farms that direct market a majority of the product to consumers. Family-scale producers would, however, continue to be overseen by local and state food safety and health agencies.

Seventy-six million Americans, approximately one in four, are sickened by food-borne disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To read a column by Michael Pollan, the author of "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual" and Eric Schlosser, who wrote "Fast Food Nation", click here.