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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The Senate has passed a $1.4 billion food safety bill that would place stricter standards on imported foods on Tuesday.

The measure, which was passed with a vote of 73-25, will significantly improve the government’s ability to police food producers, prevent product recalls before they happen and decrease outbreaks of deadly E. coli, salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. It will now have to be passed by the House before it can be signed into law by the president.

As reported, the new bill allows the Food and Drug Administration to require manufacturers to identify potential risks of their products and propose their own safety guidelines, while setting performance standards that drive down contamination levels. The FDA will also have the authority to increase inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities.  Additionally, grocery stores will be required to post lists of recently recalled foods in a prominent location.

Most importantly, however, the bill gives the FDA the authority to require a recall, whereas now the vast majority of recalls are voluntary on the part of the business.

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“The current law we have is a reactionary law, where the FDA just responds to outbreaks, but with this new law, they would actually have authority to put in place processes that would prevent them,” Chris Waldrop, director of the nonprofit Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), explained to MainStreet.

A different version of the bill was passed by the House in July 2009, but the legislation ultimately stalled in the Senate after advocates of locally produced food and operators of small farms said it could potentially bankrupt small businesses.

Senators were finally able to pass the bill after agreeing to exempt small operations from the costly food safety plans required of bigger companies. They also eliminated certain fees that processors must pay and reduced the number of required inspections for small producers.  

Why is the new food safety bill so important? Check out our article on why food recalls are getting worse.

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