The New York Times is reporting that a bi-partisan majority of the U.S. Senate has passed a dramatic piece of legislation, granting new power to the Food and Drug Administration "to crack down on unsafe foods before they harm people rather than after outbreaks occur." Though the report warns that the Senate may not have time to haggle with the House of Representatives, which passed its own version last year, it's still a step in the right direction.
Both versions of the bill would grant the F.D.A. new powers to recall tainted foods, increase inspections, demand accountability from food companies and oversee farming. But neither version would consolidate overlapping functions at the Department of Agriculture and nearly a dozen other federal agencies that oversee various aspects of food safety, making coordination among the agencies a continuing challenge.
While food-safety advocates and many industry groups preferred the House version because it includes more money for inspections and fewer exceptions from the rules it sets out, most said the Senate bill was far better than nothing.
“This is an historic moment,” said Erik Olson, deputy director of the Pew Health Group, an advocacy group. “For the first time in over 70 years, the Senate has approved an overhaul of F.D.A.’s food safety law that will help ensure that the food we put on our kitchen tables will be safer.”