The House Energy and
Commerce Committee Wednesday passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act
of 2009 with an amendment that would exempt meat, poultry, eggs and
the farms and facilities that produce and process them exclusively.
The bill, H.R. 2749, is aimed primarily at expanding Food and Drug
Administration authority and resources. An amendment passed by voice
vote exempts farms, foods and facilities regulated exclusively by the
Secretary of Agriculture under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the
Poultry Products Inspection Act or the Egg Products Inspection Act.
The bill, passed by the committee unanimously, would give FDA
authority to order food recalls, increase inspections to every six to
12 months at high-risk facilities, impose new penalties on violators
and require foreign and domestic food companies to follow food safety
standards at facilities covered by the act, according to media
reports. It would boost FDA funding by requiring covered companies to
pay $500 per facility yearly with a cap of $175,000 per company.
Meat industry groups last week raised a number of concerns that the
legislation in its original form would have had a series of negative
consequences for the industry. (See Meat
groups get nervous about food safety bill on Meatingplace.com,
June 11, 2009.)
Meat industry response
"It appears that most of our on-farm inspection concerns have
been addressed, but we're continuing to work to make sure the
clarifying language ensures there won't be duplicative regulatory
authority between FDA and USDA for meat products," National
Cattlemen's Beef Association spokeswoman Bethany Shively told Meatingplace.
The American Meat Institute issued a statement saying, "Although
the majority of AMI member companies are regulated by USDA's Food
Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), H.R. 2749 presents concerns
because of the effect it would have on FDA-regulated products that
are used as ingredients in some meat and poultry and because of the
precedent the bill could establish with respect to the meat and
poultry inspection statutes … AMI still has concerns regarding
providing FDA with mandatory recall authority, the imposition of
registration fees and a reference to BPA in the legislation, among others."
Food safety legislation has also been proposed in the Senate, but
that bill might have to wait in line behind the Senate health
committee's work on health care reform.