The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 today, after voting last night not to pass the bill without debate. Consumer advocate groups nationwide pushed Congress to fast-track this one, and farmers have condemned the bill for a host of reasons.
The Food Safety Enhancement Act—controversial brainchild of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.)—passed the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously in June. Democrats back it as an important step in combating future outbreaks of food-borne illnesses like E. coli and Salmonella.
Among the bill's highlights is a serious expansion of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority. Measures in the bill give the FDA new power in ordering recalls on tainted foods and increases the minimum number of facility inspections by the agency. A country-of-origin labeling clause is also included.
But critics decry the bill as certain doom for small-scale local growers and say it gives the FDA too much oversight of domestic food production. Points of concern include mandatory registration with the federal government and intensive food safety plans demanded from farms or ranches that process and/or package their own goods—Lifeline Farm, for instance. Registration comes with a $500 annual pricetag.
Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg voted against the bill Wednesday, and the bill fell just short of netting the two-thirds majority needed to pass without debate or amendment. The House then passed a version of the bill in a 283-142 vote late this afternoon following more than two hours of debate.
For a PDF of the Food Safety Enhancement Act as it went before the House Wednesday, see the link here.