WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown released the following statement today after the Senate voted to pass the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010. Brown, while a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authority to recall dangerous foods and establish a comprehensive traceability system to quickly and accurately trace the source of tainted food in the event of a foodborne illness outbreak. Both provisions were included in the bill passed today by the Senate.
“American families should be able to put food on the table without fearing contamination. No longer should we worry that the food in school cafeterias, ballparks, grocery stores, or local restaurants will send a child to the hospital and spread panic through the community. By passing this bill today, we are one step closer to achieving this goal,” Brown said. “This bipartisan bill will provide the FDA with the tools necessary to better protect our food supply, to recall tainted or adulterated food, and to respond more effectively and quickly to foodborne illness outbreaks. The goal is to make food safety a foregone conclusion, and this legislation moves us significantly closer to that goal.”
Brown was successful in ensuring that the final bill included important provisions to establish a nationwide traceability system through the FDA. The bill will require the FDA, in coordination with the food industry, to establish pilot projects to test and evaluate new methods for rapidly and effectively tracking and tracing food products to prevent and mitigate foodborne illness outbreaks. As a result of Senator Brown’s provisions, the FDA will be required to establish a product tracing system and develop additional recordkeeping requirements for foods determined to be “high risk.” The provisions ensure that methods and requirements are appropriate for small businesses and exempts or limits requirements for farms, restaurants, raw agricultural commodities, and fishing vessels. Finally, the provisions require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an examination and provide recommendations regarding the effectiveness of these new requirements.
In addition, the final bill provides FDA with the authority to order food recalls when a firm fails to voluntarily recall dangerous food products – a provision Senator Brown has long fought for. By providing FDA with mandatory recall authority, the bill addresses the existing inability of the federal government to recall tainted food. Today, America’s food safety system relies on voluntary recalls and self-policing by industries. In a recent outbreak, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plant in Blakely, Ga. was identified as the source of a salmonella outbreak on Jan. 12, 2009. While PCA issued a voluntary recall of a limited number of peanut butter products the next day, it wasn’t until January 28, 2009 that PCA expanded its recall to encompass all peanut and peanut products processed at its Georgia facility. Salmonella poisoning lead to several deaths nationwide, including in Ohio. One victim was 80-year-old grandmother Nellie Napier, a resident of Medina.
As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Brown co-founded the House Food Safety Caucus and helped negotiate food safety provisions of the 2003 Bioterrorism Bill. In the Senate, he continues his work on food safety. In addition to the bills above, Brown introduced the Food and Product Responsibility Act, which would help ensure that importers are able to cover the costs of recalls.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is supported by a wide range of stakeholder organizations, including the American Public Health Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the National Restaurant Association, the Organic Trade Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Consumers Union, and the PEW Charitable Trust.