There hasn’t been much bipartisan handshaking across the aisle in the U.S. Congress lately, but at the end of 2010, the lawmakers approved the Food Safety Modernization Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in early January. This is the first major restructuring of such regulations since 1938.
The legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new power directed at overseeing food inspection to prevent food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella and E. coli, which have wreaked havoc in recent years. According to a White House press release, food-borne illness strikes 48 million Americans each year, hospitalizing 100,000 and killing thousands. The law directs the FDA to collaborate with a wide range of public and private partners to build a new system of food safety oversight focused on applying science and good common sense to prevent future outbreaks. The legislation also significantly enhances the FDA’s ability to oversee the millions of food products coming into the United States from other countries each year, stated the release.
“Now, the task falls to the FDA to carry out the direction we’ve been given,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, commissioner of food and drugs. “We are hard at work planning how we will put this law into effect. Already we know that the legislation did not include sufficient fee resources to cover the costs of the new requirements. In that, we will look to Congress to work with us to ensure that FDA has what’s needed to achieve our shared food safety and food defense goals.”
Funding for the law still needs to be approved and is expected to meet opposition in the 112th Congress.
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