In the Wake of Egg Recall, Legislators Consider Enhancing FDA’s Power to Ensure Food Safety

Contributed by Michael Bell

A congressional probe into two Iowa egg farms’ recall of 550 million eggs following an outbreak of salmonella enteritidis may encourage legislators to pass the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which is currently stalled before the Senate.  Congressional hearings scheduled to be held today week regarding the egg recall and the salmonella outbreak, which to date has affected over 1,500 people, could draw a great deal of public attention to the bill, which, if passed, would empower the FDA to set new quality standards for food producers, increase inspections of food production facilities, require better record-keeping by food producers, and mandate third-party testing of food products.  The bill would also enable the FDA to order food recalls on its own initiative rather than relying upon the cooperation of the food industry.

It is nonetheless uncertain whether public attention to food safety arising out of the upcoming Congressional hearings will stem the significant opposition with which the bill has been met in the Senate.  Last week, Senator Tom Coburn stated that he intended to block passage of the bill since it contains no indication of how it would be funded.  Citing Coburn’s objection, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated last week that the Senate is unlikely to revisit the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act before recessing for midterm elections in October.