Natural Foods Merchandiser

Details of H.R. 2749: Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009

Status: Passed the House July 30

Sponsors: Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.; Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Full text: Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009

What’s next: Waiting for Senate action

What it does: Amends the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to strengthen federal food safety oversight and enforcement. Among its provisions:

  • An annually updated registry of all food facilities serving American consumers, including importers

  • Increased inspections of food facilities; high-risk facilities would be inspected at least once every six to 12 months

  • Safety plans against food hazards, including electronic recordkeeping

  • New authority for the Food and Drug Administration to order mandatory recalls or block unsafe food from distribution

  • Funding mechanisms that include a $500 annual registration fee for food producers, fees for export certificates and fees to cover the FDA’s costs for reinspections and food recalls

Retailer know-how: The House Energy and Commerce Committee drafted H.R. 2749 in June, rolling in elements from three other food safety resolutions, H.R. 759, 875 and 1332.

Two elements of H.R. 2749—better surveillance of illness by the Centers for Disease Control, and more precise tracking—could be good news for retailers, says Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who represents people sickened by food. If food-borne illness can be caught earlier and with greater precision, “the FDA can triangulate back to the product—[for instance],Dole bagged spinach dated Aug. 15—instead of ‘recall all spinach,’” he says. The current system of voluntary recalls leaves grocers and warehouses with losses not covered by insurance, while many victims of food-borne illness never know what made them sick.

Farmers’ markets, farm stands and direct sales to restaurants are exempt from registration rules and fees. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s concerns that the fee and record-keeping requirements will unfairly impact small, organic farmers were aired in the House debate, but none were added to the final bill, which passed 283-142, with 54 Republicans joining 229 Democrats in voting “aye.”

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