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By: Tony Flood   Date: 12/1/10

Yesterday, an important and historical event took place.  The U.S. Senate approved a new food safety bill  trying to reduce the numbers of Americans who suffer from foodborne illness from contaminated food.  The bill moves ahead with modernizing the current and somewhat outdated food safety system that included laws and regulations dating back to the 1930’s – long before we had the technology, expertise and capacity to prevent food safety problems, and way before we had television, computers and a vibrant 24 / 7 media environment.

But what does the new food safety bill really mean? 
First of all, the Food Safety Modernization Act will provide for and address food safety at its core.  The Bill will address food safety issues where contamination is most critical in an effort to prevent food safety problems or contamination before it has the opportunity to spread and make us sick.  Furthermore, the Bill will provide more authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) giving the Agency more ability to recall food.  The current system utilizes a voluntary system – which had been effective until a recent spate of major recalls that sickened many and unfortunately caused several deaths.

Whether it was the recall of eggs or peanut paste causing illness, the problem could have been easily prevented.  Take for instance eggs.  Earlier this year, FDA was finally able to put in place, preventative measures to reduce the risk of Salmonella in eggs.  Other than pasteurization, the new egg rule specifies procedures for refrigeration, storage and transportation of shelled eggs.  If implemented earlier, the egg rule could have possibly prevented this year’s recall of half a billion eggs. 

The Food Safety Modernization Act will include more forward thinking rulemaking, like the egg rule, that puts food safety for Americans first.  Certainly there will be opportunities for all producers of food, from our small scale, local farmers to the large-scale operators who provide safe food for thousands of Americans, to provide their input and perspectives on how the Bill and its related provisions will look like.  It’s going to take time and it won’t be easy.  One thing is for certain; our food will be much safer today than it was back in the 1930’s.
 

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