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In Iowa's Interest: Senate Passes Historic Food Safety Bill

December 2, 2010

In Iowa's Interest: Senate Passes Historic Food Safety Bill

For too long, we’ve allowed trips to the grocery store to be a gamble for American families.  In fact, while the food supply in the United States is one of the safest in the world, each year about 76 million illnesses occur, more than 300,000 people are hospitalized and 5,000 die from food borne illness.  Meanwhile, an increasing portion of our food now comes from overseas.  The FDA has struggled in recent years with outbreaks of food borne illness and nationwide recalls of contaminated food from both domestic and foreign sources.  The fact of the matter is, our food safety system was designed 100 years ago and was appropriate for a world in which most of our food was grown and processed domestically.  These are serious concerns that Iowa families shouldn’t have to worry about – and that is why I am so pleased that at long last the Senate passed historic legislation to overhaul our food safety system.

S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, is a true victory for American consumers and will help prevent food contamination and improve our outbreak response.  The bill was a bipartisan effort and passed by a vote of 73-25.  I was honored to cosponsor and help shepherd the legislation through the Senate as Chairman of the Health Committee.  Specifically, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will:
Improve prevention of food contamination by identifying hazards before food becomes contaminated.
Allow the FDA to issue mandatory recalls in the event that businesses do not voluntarily recall harmful foods.
Require grocery stores and other food retailers to notify consumers if they have sold food that has been recalled.
Improve disease surveillance so outbreaks can be discovered earlier. 

There are, unfortunately, many myths circulating about this bill and I have heard from many concerned farmers and small business owners in Iowa.  In reality, the bill was written to protect consumers while not burdening our agricultural producers or small businesses.  To debunk just a few of these rumors: the bill will not bring more FDA inspectors to farms, it will not outlaw home gardens and family farms, it will not charge famers and small businesses new registration fees, it will not criminalize seed savings, it will not require farms to perform new record keeping and it will not outlaw traditional organic growing methods.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is an important step towards keeping Iowans – and all Americans – safe, and represents what can be accomplished when we work across the to benefit families and consumers.  For more information on the bill please visit http://Harkin.Senate.Gov or call my office at 515-284-4574.