America is finally on the verge of having food safety laws that match the dangers of 21st century production. The U.S. Senate passed a bill Tuesday that gives sweeping new authority to the Food and Drug Administration to protect the food supply and makes food producers responsible for ensuring their products are safe.
Senate passage, 73 to 25, comes nearly a year after the House passed a similar bill. Both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican George LeMieux, voted yes. House leaders indicated they would accept the Senate's less stringent bill rather than risk further delays.
The new rules will establish cleanliness, production and recordkeeping standards for farms and food manufacturers. The FDA will have authority to regularly inspect food production facilities, examine records and order mandatory recalls. Importers will also have to verify their products were produced under similar safety standards.
Recent outbreaks of illness from contaminated eggs, spinach and peanuts speak to the need to update a system that's not been overhauled since the 1930s. Thousands of people have become sick or died due to foods contaminated during the growing or production process.
The FDA will need more money to carry out its new duties, but that will be a small price to pay for a safer food supply.