President Barack Obama

Obama Signs Food Safety Modernization Act

But it's one of the new laws and regulations some congressional Republicans have in their sights. This one they could threaten by not funding its enforcement by FDA.

The Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law Tuesday by the president will bring about "a sea change for food safety in America, bringing a new focus on prevention," Commissioner of Food and Drugs Dr. Margaret Hamburg wrote in a post on the White House blog. As she noted, Congress did not include sufficient funding in the law (H.R. 2751) to cover FDA's costs to enforce it, which could be a critical mistake. Some congressional Republicans have said they will try to deny funding to FDA to carry out the law now that their party has control of the House of Representatives.

"We are hard at work planning how we will put this law into effect," Hamburg wrote. She predicted it will "have a dramatic and positive effect on the safety of the food supply."

The law directs FDA to set up a new system of food safety oversight that is based on preventing problems that cause people to get sick. FDA currently has prevention-oriented standards in place for seafood, juices, and eggs, and USDA has them for meat and poultry, she pointed out. "What's new is the recognition that, for all the strengths of the American food system, a breakdown at any point on the farm-to-table spectrum can cause catastrophic harm to the health of consumers and great disruption and economic loss to the food industry," Hamburg wrote. "So we need to look at the food system as a whole, be clear about the food safety responsibility of all of its participants, and strengthen accountability for prevention throughout the entire food system -- domestically and internationally. The new law meets these needs in numerous ways."

The law gives FDA more effective enforcement tools and requires it to establish standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. It gives FDA for the first time a congressional mandate for risk-based inspections of food processing facilities, with all high-risk domestic facilities inspected within five years of the law's enactment and no more than every three years thereafter, she noted.

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