Georgia Senate Passes Bill to Strengthen Food Inspections

A bill to require food manufacturers to notify state inspectors within 24 hours after an internal test shows evidence of food contamination has passed the Georgia state Senate unanimously. SB 80, introduced by the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate's Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee and three colleagues, is a response to the salmonella outbreak that began with Peanut Corporation of America's now-closed Blakely, Ga., plant. PCA has filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and ceased operations.

Sponsors of the bill include Sen. John Bulloch, R-11, who chairs the committee, and Sen. Ralph Hudgens, R-47, its vice chairman. Passed with a 50-0 vote on Wednesday, the bill would require food processing plants to maintain records of the results of all tests required by the law for at least two years and to make the results available to state inspectors. The bill also would require companies to conduct tests at least once a year, in addition to state and federal inspections.

The Athens Banner-Herald of Athens, Ga., published an editorial Thursday that said, "in truth, there's nothing much to be celebrated in connection with Senate Bill 80." The bill codifies "what should have been a long-standing set of common-sense testing standards that, if they'd been in place already, arguably could have prevented the deaths and illnesses traced to the South Georgia peanut plant. . . . While it's a good thing that federal and state lawmakers are now focused on food safety issues, there's an abiding sadness in the fact that it took deaths and illnesses to produce that focus. And it's sadder still that those deaths and illnesses might have been prevented with just a little legislative forethought."

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