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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Food Safety Issues for the 112th Congress

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

The 111th Congress passed comprehensive food safety legislation in December 2010 (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), P.L. 111-353). Although numerous agencies share responsibility for regulating food safety, this newly enacted legislation focuses on foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and amends FDA’s existing structure and authorities, in particular the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA; 21 U.S.C. §§ 301 et seq.). Among its many provisions, the new law expands FDA’s authority to conduct a mandatory recall of contaminated food products, enhances surveillance systems for foodborne illness outbreaks, establishes preventative controls at some food processing facilities and farms, enhances FDA’s traceability capacity within the nation’s food distribution channels, increases the number of FDA inspections at domestic and foreign food facilities, and expands FDA’s authority and oversight of foreign companies that supply food imports to the United States.

The 112
th Congress may provide oversight over how the law is implemented, including FDA’s coordination with other federal agencies, such as those in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Implementation of the law will depend largely on the availability of discretionary appropriations, and some have questioned whether additional funding is available in the current budgetary climate.

In addition, the 112
th Congress may continue to consider changes to other food safety laws and policies that are being actively debated in Congress. Among these are food safety initiatives covering meat, poultry, and seafood products; legislation intended to curtail the non-medical use of antibiotics in animal feeds and to ban the use of certain plastic components commonly used in food containers; food labeling; and the use of plant and animal biotechnology. Several of these issues were actively debated in the 111th Congress during the food safety debate leading up to passage of the FSMA.

Some in Congress also may continue to push for additional policy reforms either to existing FDA or USDA food safety laws to address other perceived concerns regarding the safety of the U.S. food supply, including resources and regulatory tools to adequately combat foodborne illness, as well as coordination and organization among federal agencies.

Date of Report: February 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R41629
Price: $29.95

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