House passes food safety bill back to Senate

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 10-Dec-2010, Food Navigator-USA

The Food Safety Modernization Act has been passed back to the Senate following its approval by the House on Wednesday as part of a much larger bill detailing government funding.

The $1.09trn appropriations bill passed the House 212-206 and must now go back to the Senate to be reapproved. It is expected that the upper chamber will vote in the next few days.

The sweeping food safety legislation had encountered a constitutional snag – despite passing with a bipartisan 73-25 vote on November 30 – and was stalled after House Democrats said that it contained fees that are considered tax provisions. Under the Constitution, revenue-raising provisions must originate in the House.

President Obama has already said that he intends to sign the bill into law.

The Food Safety Modernization Act is estimated to cost $1.4bn over the next five years. It would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees the safety of about 80 percent of the US food supply, the authority to order product recalls and greater access to companies’ records. It would also require food manufacturers to keep comprehensive food safety plans.

A companion bill passed in the House in July 2009 also included more frequent inspections of high-risk facilities and fees for manufacturers, but the House decided to accept the Senate version in order to increase its likelihood of reaching the President’s desk by the end of the year.

The Tester-Hagan amendment that would exempt smaller food processors from the legislation is one of the issues that goes back to the Senate for consideration. It is expected that the amendment will be included in the bill if it is passed into law later this year.