The latest legislative move in food safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act, is enjoying support on both sides of the aisle and includes provisions in several areas of food safety. Due several to food-borne illness outbreaks in the last few years, lawmakers, the food industry, and the general public have been supportive of the bill overall.
However, one recent change to the bill, an amendment to outlaw the chemical BPA from plastic food containers, has caused some food industry officials to withdraw support for the bill.
Lawmakers proposing the BPA amendment state that there is ample evidence of BPA’s negative effects, from the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program and many scientific research papers. BPA is suspected of a host of effects in humans: the neural development of fetuses, infants and children; increased risk of certain cancers; increased risk of diabetes and liver problems; increased risk of heart disease.
BPA’s risk level is not entirely clear: the official stand of the FDA is the the levels of BPA in common containers at present (food and beverage) is not enough to pose any threat to health.
While many retailers have voluntarily dropped children’s products containing BPA, the chemical is still used in a significant number and variety of products.
Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
The legislation under consideration gained considerable momentum and popularity after extensive media coverage of food-based outbreaks of E. coli and Salmonella in the last few years. It amends previous legislation known as the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by expanding the power of the Health and Human Services Secretary in regulating food. In particular, under the new legislation, the Secretary has the power to suspend a food facility’s registration.
The new bill also requires all food facilities to regularly assess hazards and implement controls and preventative measures. New fees to fund recalls and inspections will be leveled at food manufacturers.
The FDA would also see increased regulatory powers and responsibilities under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, including the creation of a food producer and importer registry, quarantine powers over unsafe food products, and a new oversight and investigation fee of $500 on food facilities.