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Supported by key grocery industry groups, a $1.4 billion food-safety bill awaited President Obama’s signature Tuesday afternoon.
The biggest change to oversight of the food industry since 1938, signing of the bill into 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. “Ultimately, it is the food industry that is responsible for the safety of its products,” Pamela Bailey, GMA president of the Washington-based group, said during an FDA conference call Monday. “But we have long recognized that strong government oversight is a critical and necessary part of our nation’s food safety net.”
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.”
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said her agency will work closely with Congress to implement the law. “I’m very optimistic that we will be able to move forward,” Hamburg said during Monday’s conference call.