Your Health

Legislation To Boost FDA's Authority Over Food Moves Ahead

What happens when Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill reach a historic agreement on a legislation that's been the subject of decades of battle? Sometimes nothing. At least not right away.

Hamburger. i i

hide captionThe ground beef scare might be a thing of the past, if the Senate has the energy to deal with the bill.

iStockphoto
Hamburger.

The ground beef scare might be a thing of the past, if the Senate has the energy to deal with the bill.

iStockphoto

Yet while some Senators are engaged in agonizing arguments over a health overhaul bill, the Senate HELP committee quickly and fairly quietly put its bipartisan stamp of approval on a bill to dramatically change food safety laws. But it is not a sure bet that the bill will become law this year, as NPR's Joanne Silberner has reported on the issue.

Advocates for food safety reform have been pushing the legislation hard in recent weeks, and many in the food industry support it. In the wake of many high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks tied to foods as common as spinach and peanut butter that sickened millions, a similar bill passed the House in July.

The bill that would give the FDA a stronger bark and bite when it comes to preventing foodborne illness, including beefing up its inspection authority, recall power and ability to detain mislabeled food. It would also give the FDA a significant boost in funding.

Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, the top HELP committee Republican, asked for swift action on the bill. "I'm hoping the bipartisan approach will continue right on through the floor work," he said.

Most senators withdrew amendments they had intended to offer in order to keep action moving in committee. The bill passed by unanimous consent.

But with healthcare legislation on the verge of hitting the Senate floor any day now, the rest of the congressional year might just be spoken for.

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