House passes food safety bill

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted 215-144 on Dec. 21 to pass legislation to overhaul the nation’s food safety laws, moving the United States closer to a new food safety system that would increase inspections and give more power to the Food and Drug Administration to recall food. The legislation, which was passed, then amended, then passed again by the Senate on Dec. 19, now will be sent to President Barack Obama, who has supported the measure and is expected to sign it into law. If signed into law by President Obama, the legislation would be the largest overhaul of U.S. food safety laws since 1938, when Congress gave the F.D.A. the authority to oversee the safety of food, drugs and cosmetics. The change comes in the face of a series of national outbreaks of food-borne illnesses linked to a variety of foods, including peanuts and eggs. “The food safety bill will provide the federal government with improved tools to prevent food-borne illness and address challenges in the food safety system by promoting a prevention-oriented approach,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “I applaud leaders in Congress for passing this important bill and look forward to President Obama signing this legislation. Protecting consumers from harm is a fundamental function of government and with passage of this landmark food safety legislation U.S.D.A. remains committed to keeping food safety a top priority.”

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