by Amos Budde, NCL Policy Intern Once again, news from Capitol Hill: The House Energy and Commerce committee held a full committee markup on the Food and Safety Enhancement Act yesterday, and it was unanimously adopted and to be sent to the House for a full vote. Each year, 76 million Americans suffer foodborne illnesses; 5,000 die. After the recent food scares and recalls of peanut butter, spinach, beef, berries, pet food, tomato products, and more, restoring confidence in the safety of our food supply has finally become a priority in Congress. This bill aims to fix the gaps in our regulatory system, so that consumers can be sure that their food is safe to eat. The Food Safety Enhancement Act gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) much-needed regulatory authority in a variety of areas, including:
- Registering food facilities – All food producers in the US must register with the FDA and pay a $500 registration fee that will fund the new safety measures.
- More inspections – “High risk” food facilities will be inspected every 6 – 18 months. Many of these facilities are currently inspected only once per decade!
- Electronic traceability – Food producers must have a “trace back” and “trace forward” system to track of where food is coming from and going to.
- Giving the FDA more enforcement bite – The bill substantially increases fines for noncompliance with safety legislation.
- Mandatory recalls – The FDA did not have the authority to do so previously; with the passage of this bill, they will.