>H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 could have passed the House of Representatives today if a motion to suspend the rules and pass as amended had attained the required 2/3 rds majority. It didn’t. The measure “passed 280-150,” falling six votes short of the required margin. [Miami Herald] Representative Dean Heller (R-NV2) was one of the 150 votes in opposition to the bill. Another vote is scheduled on Thursday, and at that time only a majority is required for passage. [roll call 657] Representatives Berkley (D-NV1) and Titus (D-NV3) voted in favor of the bill.
The bill would require food facilities to conduct hazard analysis; prepare preventive controls; and implement a food safety plan. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would issue science based performance standards; establish science based standards for raw agricultural commodities; inspect facilities as frequently as a risk based schedule shows appropriate; establish a food tracing system; assess fees relating to food facility reinspection and food recall; and establish a program of accreditation for laboratories that perform analytical testing for imported or exported food.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services would be empowered to order an immediate cessation of distribution, or recall of contaminated products; establish an importer verification program; and quarantine food in any geographic area within the US if contamination is found. The bill also defines the term “color additive” to include carbon monoxide that may affect the color of fresh meat, poultry, or seafood. The commissioner of Food and Drugs would be given subpoena power with respect to food processing, and health officials could deem a food to be adulterated if an inspection is delayed or refused. [CRS]
Opponents argued “we haven’t had enough time to consider the bill,” and “voluntary regulations are all that is necessary to ensure food safety.” The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 76 million cases of food borne illness each year in the U.S., and 325,000 of those cases require hospitalization. [Miami Herald]