Using 15 pens, President Obama signed the long-awaited FDA Food Safety Modernization Act into law Tuesday evening.

billsigned-featured.jpgThe legislation, widely hailed as the most sweeping update to U.S. food safety law since the Great Depression, survived a constitutional slip-up, repeated filibuster threats, fierce debate over controversial amendments, and managed to advance amidst a jam-packed legislative agenda in one of the most productive Congresses in recent history.  In the last 18 months, food safety legislation cleared the Senate twice and the House three times.

The legislative saga ended quietly Tuesday after the president returned from a family vacation in Hawaii.  He signed the bill into law–along with a stack of others, including bills aimed at improving shark conservation, pedestrian safety, and science education–with no formal signing ceremony or statement.

Industry, public health, and consumer groups praised the signing.

Pam Bailey, president & CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, thanked the president for signing the bill to strengthen the U.S. food safety system.

“Today’s 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,” said Bailey in a statement.  “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 food industry applauds Congress for the passage of historic food safety legislation and is grateful to the President for his signature today,” added GMA chairman of the board, chief executive officer of Del Monte Foods Richard Wolford.  “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.”

As Food Safety News recently reported, supporters of the new law are gearing up to fight for the funding to implement the provisions in a contentious budgetary landscape.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a longtime advocate of food safety reform and outgoing chair of the subcommittee that oversees FDA’s budget, pushed back against reports of GOP plans to block significant funding increases.
“It is disturbing that there will be an effort by Republicans to cut FDA funding and thus prevent this landmark new law from being implemented adequately,” said DeLauro in a statement Monday.  “In the same week that Republicans announced their intention to cut FDA funding for the new food safety law, it was announced that a salmonella outbreak involving alfalfa sprouts had sickened nearly 100 people in at least 15 states.  Without appropriate funding levels, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would not be as effective in protecting our food supply and saving lives.”
Longtime proponent of the legislation, John Dingell (D-MI), echoed the call to fund the bill.

“This law is long overdue,” said Dingell, citing the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate on annual foodborne illnesses and deaths in the U.S. “Now we must take the next step to ensure that the new authorities are fully funded to ensure the FDA can do its work to protect the American people.”

The new law will give FDA expanded authority over approximately 80 percent of the food supply–not including USDA-regulated meat and poultry products–by giving the agency mandatory recall power and expanded access to food safety records.  FDA will be required to increase the frequency of food facility inspections (currently a facility might be inspected once a decade).  Growers and food manufacturers will also be required to implement food safety plans and foreign facilities importing food to the U.S. will have to meet the same standards.


Photos by White House photographer Pete Souza, via Obamafoodorama

  • James Smith

    Hopefully this does not negatively impact local organic farmers.

  • Ron Mozingo

    Where is the provision financially compensating a food manufacturer for an FDA mistake? For instance, recalling a product that was not contaminated IE tomato’s. FDA does make mistakes, sometimes real big ones. Bankrupting a company over a mistake without company recourse, is, government at it’s worst. Ron Mozingo

  • Katrina Pritchard

    Why would’t they include the meat and poultry when they are some of the worst offenders? Does the biggest egg recall in history not a valid reason? Local and organic food is the way to go!!

  • Michael Bulger

    Sec. 206 (e)(1)(A): The Comptroller General of the U.S. must submit to Congress a report that “identifies State and local agencies with the authority to require the mandatory recall of food, and evaluates use of such authority with regard to frequency, effectiveness, and appropriateness, including consideration of any new or existing mechanisms available to compensate persons for general and specific recall-related costs when a recall is subsequently determined by the relevant authority to have been an error;”
    and, “identifies Federal agencies, other than the Department of Health and Human Services, with mandatory recall authority and examines use of that authority with regard to frequency, effectiveness, and appropriateness, including any new or existing mechanisms available to 9 compensate persons for general and specific recall-related costs when a recall is subsequently determined by the relevant agency to have been an error;”
    as well as, “considers models for farmer restitution implemented in other nations in cases of erroneous recalls;”
    Based on this report, “If the Comptroller General of the United States finds, after the review conducted under paragraph (1), that the mechanisms described in such paragraph do not exist or are inadequate, then, not later than 90 days after the conclusion of such review, the Secretary of Agriculture shall conduct a study of the feasibility of implementing a farmer indemnification program to provide restitution to agricultural producers for losses sustained as a result of a mandatory recall of an agricultural commodity by a Federal or State regulatory agency that is subsequently determined to be in error. The Secretary of Agriculture shall submit to the Committee on Agriculture of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry of the Senate a report that describes the results of the study, including any recommendations.”

  • Dr. Barry Nevins

    I am dissapointed you would sponser any bill giving the FDA more power. The FDA is unrestrained and uses it’s power to intimidate rather then aid. The way the FDA looks at supplements, when it has no power to do so, Is another trampling of rights to obtain these products. Please keep an eye on that organization, rather than praise it. I hope the republican congress does defund this organization.

  • As an active food ingredients importer, I am trying to get a confirmation of our responsibilities for ensuring that any supplier shipping goods to the USA must have a 3rd party audit certification.
    When does this rule take effect?
    What 3rd party agencies are permitted?
    How oftne must the audits be made?
    is there a minimum score that must be obtained by the supplier to be allowed access to this market?
    Thanks for nay help you can provide
    Greg Kaiser

  • BobbiSue

    The day anyone, no matter how “high class’ gov’ment they appear to be tries to tell me what to plant or not plant in my own yard is the day that they better bring extra help. This old hillbilly has been plantin her own gardens before the one occupying the Oval Office was even born!
    Bring it on Big Brother… I’ll be waitin’…