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Supported by key grocery industry groups, a $1.4 billion food-safety bill was signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday afternoon.
The biggest change to oversight of the food industry since 1938, the law is expected to set up a funding fight with Republicans poised to take control of the House of Representatives.
Industry groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Food Marketing Institute and United Fresh were among those expressing support for the legislation.
"On behalf of GMA, its member companies and the entire food and beverage industry I would like to thank President Obama for his leadership and dedication to strengthening and modernizing America’s food safety system,” said GMA President and CEO Pamela Bailey. “[The] bill signing marks a historic moment for our country, as it represents the most comprehensive reform of our nation’s food safety laws in more than 70 years. This landmark legislation provides FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help strengthen our nation’s food safety system by making prevention the focus of our food safety strategies, and will help restore the public’s faith in the safety and security of the food supply.”
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act enhances public health and safety by requiring all food companies to develop a food safety plan, adopting a risk-based approach to inspection and improving the safety of imported food and food ingredients.
“The food industry applauds Congress for the passage of historic food safety legislation and is grateful to the president for his signature,” said GMA Chairman Richard Wolford, president and CEO of Del Monte Foods. “I am proud of the food industry for its support of landmark food safety legislation and our efforts to protect consumers and provide them a safe food supply. This legislation will strengthen the safety of our nation's food supply, give FDA much needed resources to effectively monitor and regulate it, and increase consumer confidence in the food they eat. Today is the result of Congress working effectively, of partnering with industry to create and pass the best possible legislation for American consumers. We are proud of the bipartisan, industry-supported efforts that helped to carry this important legislation across the finish line.”
Bailey added: “We look forward to continuing and building upon our partnership with Congress, the administration and the FDA to strengthen and modernize our nation’s food safety system."
The measure, passed by both houses of Congress last month, gives the FDA more power to monitor domestic and international producers. It authorizes more inspections, requires most food companies to develop hazard prevention plans and gives the agency the ability to force recalls of tainted products. Implementing the law is anticipated to cost about $1.4 billion over five years.
But the House subcommittee that monitors the FDA’s budget may be unwilling to spend that much, lawmakers have said. “There’s a high possibility of trimming this whole package back,” U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican poised to become chairman of the panel and who voted against the bill, told Bloomberg. “While it’s a great re-election tool to terrify people into thinking that the food they’re eating is unsafe and unsanitary, and if not for the wonderful nanny-state politicians we’d be getting sick after every meal, the system we have is doing a darn good job.”