Food safety overhaul by end of the year

Congress will pass a new law by the end of the year to overhaul the antiquated U.S. food safety system, the first major reform in 50 years, said Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, reports Reuters. That could be followed by another close look at how meat and poultry are inspected.

The House version of the bill was passed last July, but the Senate bill has been held up by healthcare and financial regulatory reform, and been stalled by the U.S. Trade Representative's office, which wants to ensure reforms do not contravene trade agreements. An advocate for tougher food safety laws, DeLauro said her subcommittee would hold hearings in the next couple of months to examine whether new trade agreements negotiated by the U.S. should include food safety provisions. Three pending U.S. trade deals have been held up by the Obama administration, which has insisted agreements must protect worker rights and the environment.

The new law considered by Congress would give FDA mandatory recall authority, increase the frequency of food inspections and require food safety plans for food processors. Lawmakers need to look at the role of the USDA, charged with meat, poultry and eggs inspections, DeLauro said. Overlapping jurisdictions should also be examined, she said, citing a recent salami recall, where USDA oversees meat while FDA regulates the ingredient that spurred the recall.