Food Safety Bill Passes House

Last Updated Jul 31, 2009 5:23 PM EDT

The Food Safety Enhancement Act survived a house vote, passing 283-142 in a move that earned praise from President Obama, the National Restaurant Association, and the United Fresh Produce Association, among others.

The bill would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to order food recalls, rather than just requesting them. It would also have the FDA do more inspections -- paid for by those being inspected, via annual fees. And food manufacturers would have to come up with safety plans.

Of course, the details are different than those in the Senate's version, so the bill's future is unclear.

And supporters are not necessarily 100 percent happy with the current version. National Restaurant Association head Dawn Sweeney said, "We are still encouraging improvements to be made to the final legislation." And the Grocery Manufacturer's Association apparently "supports many aspects" of the bill, whatever that means.

Those in the food industry have expressed concern over the bill's record-keeping requirements, and the harsh penalties levied against those who fail to comply.

Though, naturally, there are also critics on the other side who say the bill doesn't go far enough.

For one thing, the bill doesn't affect anything in USDA territory -- eggs, meat, poultry, etc. The fact that responsibility for food safety is split between different government bodies is one of the most ridiculous aspects of our food system, and this bill doesn't address that in any way. But in light of the increasingly numerous and high-profile contamination scandals, I'd have to agree that it's certainly a step in the right direction.

  • Katherine Glover