Senate Committee Approves Food Safety Bill

Reporting from Washington – A Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a much-awaited overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety system, although it gave little hint of how it would pay for the sweeping changes.

The measure, like one passed in the House, would significantly upgrade the FDA’s regulatory powers — giving the agency the power to order a food recall instead of merely requesting that a producer institute one. In its version of the bill, the Senate panel added whistle-blower protections and unspecified grants to states to beef up food safety capabilities. It also would require the government to take into account organic agricultural standards and other factors when writing food safety rules.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the measure was not likely to go to the Senate floor before early next year because healthcare legislation was a higher priority.

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