On Thursday, July 30, the House passed a food safety bill, the Food Safety Enhancement Act (the Act), which promises far-reaching reform from the farm to the fork. The Act passed the House with a vote of 283-142.

The primary purpose of the bill is to boost food safety and consumer confidence in the FDA. The food industry has been hit by a number of foodborne illness outbreaks in the last two years, with contaminants such as salmonella turning up in nuts, spinach, strawberries, peppers, and cookie dough, among others. But it was the salmonella outbreak in peanut products in late 2008 - early 2009 that prompted this new food safety bill. The impact of the peanut issue reached across the continent and hit close to home because of our nation’s children eating a large number of peanut infused products. President Obama praised the bill, saying, “This action represents a major step forward in modernizing our food safety system and protecting Americans from foodborne illness.”

The bill has received strong and wide-reaching support from consumer interest groups. Some Congressional Republicans and the food industry fear that the bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, would be too invasive for farmers and gives the FDA too much authority. Some of the major highlights of the Bill are the following: (1) it grants the FDA the power to order mandatory recalls; (2) it gives the FDA authority to set science-based standards for food manufacture; (3) the bill mandates more frequent FDA inspections (once a year for high-risk facilities and every three years for others); (4) it assesses new fees for manufacturers. The Senate is expected to debate and vote on its version of the bill in the fall.