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Obama to sign food safety bill this week

by Joan Murphy | January 02, 2011
President Obama is expected to sign the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act early this week, a bill that is likely to make sweeping changes to the regulation of domestic and imported foods.

The bill passed the House Dec. 21 by a 215-144 vote, just two days after the Senate approved it by unanimous consent by attaching it to the "cash for clunkers" bill.

Once signed, the Food & Drug Administration will have new powers to mandate food recalls, access company records, step up the frequency of inspections, require performance standards and hazard prevention plans, and oversee produce operations with on-farm safety standards.

The produce industry unsuccessfully fought to strip an amendment from the Senate bill that would exempt certain small producers from food safety and recordkeeping requirements. The measure that passed will require FDA to exempt these facilities.

Now questions are being raised about whether FDA will receive adequate funding to implement the $1.4 billion bill. The new Congress, which starts Jan. 5, will have to tackle funding issues before a temporary stop-gap spending bill expires in March and the Republican-controlled House is likely to heavily scrutinize domestic funding requests.