UPDATE: U.S. House passes food-safety bill

UPDATE: U.S. House passes food-safety bill

WASHINGTON The National Restaurant Association praised members of the U.S. House for passing a wide-ranging measure to overhaul the Food and Drug Administration and address problems with the nation's food supply.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, or H.R. 2749, passed Thursday afternoon by a vote of 283 to 142. The measure is designed to strengthen the country's food safety system and respond to recent food poisoning outbreaks involving items like peanut products, peppers and spinach.

The measure gives the FDA more power to investigate food producers, require food manufacturers to write and facilitate safety plans, and track and recall unsafe food products, among other things.

The bill originally had come up for vote Wednesday under expedited procedures that limited debate to 40 minutes and prohibited any amendments. However, the measure fell seven votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass it. The final vote Wednesday was 280 in favor of passage and 150 against it.

Following the defeat on Wednesday, lawmakers said they would reintroduce the measure again Thursday under a rule that would require a simple majority of 218 votes for passage.

 

Commenting on the bill's passage, Dawn Sweeney, president and chief executive of the NRA, said the association "applauds chairman emeritus John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, for their leadership and collaborative approach to reform our nation's food safety system. We are pleased with the legislation's focus on prevention, increased resources and risk-based approach to targeting those resources."

Sweeney called the safety of the food supply "the restaurant industry's No. 1 priority, and we -- like consumers -- rely on a supply chain that needs to provide restaurants with safe food to serve guests. We have been a strong supporter of comprehensive reforms that increase consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply. Confidence in the food supply is critical to the success of our industry and to consumers across America."

"As restaurateurs," Sweeney continued, "we depend upon the food-safety system to give our customers the dining experience they have come to expect."

However, she added, while the NRA believes the measure "is a good step toward achieving that goal, we are still encouraging improvements to be made to the final legislation."

Foodservice industry officials earlier had said [3] they were wary of several provisions in the bill, such as the record-keeping requirements for restaurant operators.

The Senate has yet to vote on its version of the food safety measure, but a bill sponsored by Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., has bipartisan support.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected] [4].