Search Penny Hill Press

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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). FSMA greatly expanded food safety oversight authority at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). FSMA does not apply to the federal food safety system as a whole, and did not alter oversight authorities within other federal agencies responsible for food safety, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Although numerous agencies share responsibility for regulating food safety, FSMA focused on FDA-regulated foods and amended 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, FSMA expands FDA’s authority to conduct a mandatory recall of contaminated food products, enhances surveillance systems for foodborne illness outbreaks, establishes preventive 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. Since the law was signed in January 2011, FDA has been actively engaged in developing new regulations to implement FSMA.

The 112th Congress may provide oversight over how the law is implemented, including FDA’s coordination with other federal agencies, such as those in 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 112th 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. Several bills debated in the 110th and 111th Congress have been reintroduced.

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

Date of Report: January 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R41629
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.