The heat is being turned up on food safety. A coalition of food safety groups last week ran print ads in Nevada and Kentucky designed to pressure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to move the present food safety bill to the Senate floor and pass it. It was a year ago the House overwhelmingly approved the legislation. Erik Olson with the food and consumer product safety programs at Pew Health Group says time is short.
Government statistics indicate that each year one in four Americans are affected and five-thousand people die from foodborne illnesses. Tainted food has cost the food industry billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales and legal expenses. There has been little opposition to the legislation - with the exception of some farm interests - which argue that the legislation gives too much authority to the FDA and would lead to higher costs and burdensome paperwork.
The bill would be the first major change to food safety laws in 70 years. It would give the Food and Drug Administration vast new regulatory authority over food production and place greater responsibility on manufacturers and farmers to produce food free from contamination. The measure also would give FDA authority to order a recall if it suspects contamination. And it would allow FDA to quarantine a geographic area - blocking the distribution of suspect food to the rest of the country.