Food Companies Back Food Safety Bill

More than a dozen companies that lobbied Congress on the $1.4-billion food safety bill recalled their food products in the past few years, including for foodborne illnesses that lawmakers are targeting.

Many of the food companies that back the food-safety bill proposed by Congress have recalled products from stores shelves earlier this year, yet support the tougher regulations proposed in the S. 510 Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in the Senate on Nov. 30. Large food makers, including those that have faced recent recalls, say the bill provides clear regulations that levels the playing field among competitors. When it comes to recalls, most companies will pull unsafe items whether or not the government requires them to do so.

Consumer advocate groups credit the companies and others in the industry with helping to make the $1.4-billion measure one of the few bills moving quickly through Congress during the year-end, "lame duck" session that began Nov. 15, 2010.

The bill would mandate Food and Drug Administration inspections of facilities with the highest risk of contaminating food once every three years. The measure would also give the government broad power to issue mandatory recalls rather than relying on private companies to act voluntarily.

Encouraged by recent outbreaks of food contamination, such as this summer's recall of 550 million eggs suspected of salmonella contamination, the legislation also includes provisions that would let officials better trace foodborne illnesses to their source. According to a USA Today report, the House of Representatives passed a more stringent bill in July 2009 that would impose registration fees on food processing plants and require more frequent inspections.

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