Yesterday, the Senate passed The Food Safety Modernization Act in a majority vote of 73-25, setting the stage for the biggest changes to food safety in the U.S. since the 1930s. The bill was crafted in response to a rash of food poisoning outbreaks linked to contaminated food and could bring about great changes in farm life for large-scale farms if passed by Congress.
In its current form, the bill gives new regulatory powers to the Food and Drug Administration; places new responsibilities on food companies and farmers to ensure food safety; and for the first time in U.S. history, sets safety standards for imported foods. Small farmers were initially opposed to the bill, arguing that most contaminations occur at large industrial farms, but it was amended to exempt small farmers and those who sell directly to consumers at farmers markets.
More than 5,000 Americans die each year from food-borne illnesses, with 1 out of every 4 people affected by the tainted foods. Currently, governmental regulators mostly ensure food quality, but the bill ultimately holds farmers and manufacturers more accountable for food safety. Erik Olsen, director of the PEW Health Group food programs, affirmed that the bill is "a major step forward protecting the food that everyone eats every day."
The bill must still pass through Congress, though house leaders have suggested that they will quickly ratify it. President Obama could sign it by the end of this lame-duck session.