| July 11
July 11 The Republican-controlled U.S. House of
Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that could
significantly delay implementation of sweeping new food safety
legislation designed to reduce food-borne illnesses.
The House version of the farm bill would cut certain farm
subsidies, expand the crop insurance program and give new
subsidies to peanut, cotton and rice farmers.
While new amendments were not allowed, the bill included
elements from a previous version, including a provision
introduced by Republican Dan Benishek of Michigan, that would
delay introduction of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which
was signed into law in January 2011.
Benishek is demanding that the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, which is charged with implementing the food
safety law and is still in the process of discussing its
implications with the agricultural community, conduct an
additional cost and scientific analysis.
He says farmers in his district will be hurt by the law,
which, among other things, would require regular testing of
agricultural water to monitor for contamination.
"It stops the food safety bill in its tracks because you
don't know how long it will take the FDA to do this study," said
Sandra Eskin, director of food safety at The Pew Charitable
Trusts. "Congress worked really hard at getting the food safety
act passed and this amendment really undermines that law."
However, the fate of the House farm bill is uncertain. The
White House on Wednesday had threatened to veto it on several
grounds, including the omission of food stamps for the poor. It
would also have to be reconciled with the Senate's version.
More than 3,000 people in the United States die each year
from food-borne illnesses, according to federal data. One in six
are sickened and 100,000 hospitalized from illnesses tied to
such pathogens as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
The 2011 food safety law is designed to move the FDA into
preventive mode from the reactive mode in which it has operated
historically, swooping in only after an outbreak has occurred.
It gives the agency increased powers to inspect facilities and
enforce compliance with safety standards.
The new regulations lay out a myriad of standards, some less
stringent than others, depending on the assessed risk of a
particular product or facility. As part of its fiscal 2014
budget request of $4.7 billion, the FDA said $295.8 million
would be earmarked to implement the food safety law.
(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)