Friday, December 10, 2010

The Great Food Safety Debate of 2010

*To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;

Continuing Resolution H.R. 3082 was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday (December 8th). It contains the appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011 (which began on October 1st), and the "corrected" version of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The House's action was reported to the Senate yesterday morning and should be voted on in the Senate next week.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Will the Senate pass H.R. 3082? If not, the government will run out of cash and have to pay its employees with lumps of coal instead.

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

What does the Food Safety Modernization Act accomplish?
  • It mandates increased frequency of inspections, but does not authorize the level of spending that FDA said it needed to fund the increased inspection activities.
  • It mandates a universal HACCP approach to food safety, but exempts small producers.
  • It mandates registration of food processing facilities, but exempts small producers.
  • It mandates improved tracing of high-risk foods through the distribution chain, but does not require disclosure to the public of the wholesale and retail destinations of recalled foods.
  • It provides FDA with the authority to collect fees, but only to cover the costs of re-inspections, recall activities, and administering the voluntary qualified importer program.
  • It provides FDA the authority to mandate a product recall, when there is a "...reasonable probability that an article of adulterated...or misbranded..." and the responsible party does not voluntarily agree with a request from FDA to recall the item.
The Food Safety Modernization Act does all these things. In some ways, it will make FDA's job a bit easier. But it does not guarantee that the US food supply will be any safer, and it does not provide consumers with any more information on where recalled foods were served or sold than is available right now.

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

(*Soliloquy from Act V of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare)

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