In a nailbiter ending tonight, the US House of Representatives passed the long-stalled, almost-lost, back-from-the-dead FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, a decades-overdue piece of legislation that will equip the US Food and Drug Administration with enforcement tools to help it prevent and track foodborne illness outbreaks.
For people who don’t know the regulatory landscape of food in the United States, it comes as a shock that FDA (which regulates both drugs used in food production and much of the food produced in the US, except for meat and poultry which are under USDA) has so little power. Until now, the FDA could not compel a food recall; it could only ask for a problematic or dangerous food to be recalled, and the food producer could demur. That was, if the FDA even associated a particular food with a foodborne outbreak, which was unlikely given its lack of surveillance resources or inspectors. (A remarkable number of foodborne outbreaks are solved not by the feds but by the Minnesota Department of Public Health, which is well-funded by the state it represents.) The last time food-safety legislation was updated in the US was 1938. [Read more…]