Congress overhauls federal food safety efforts

After ping-ponging between chambers three times in the past month, Congress's big food fight has come to an end as the House passed a bill that overhauls how the government monitors food safety for the first time in more than 70 years.

The House voted in favor of the legislation, 215-144, after the Senate unexpectedly approved the bill by unanimous consent on Sunday. Against all odds, the measure is now on its way to the president's desk.

"This victory has been a long time coming--almost a century, in fact," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who shepherded the bill through committee and on the Senate floor. "It's been that long since our food safety system was last updated."

The Senate originally passed the food safety bill in November on a 73-25 vote after weeks of opposition from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. But the House objected to the measure, contending that it included fees that violated the Constitution's requirement that all revenue-raising legislation originate in the lower chamber. The House twice sent back corrected language to the Senate, on one occasion attaching it to a yearlong continuing resolution and on another to the omnibus spending package; but both pieces of legislation were scuttled in favor of a shorter-term funding bill.

On Sunday, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to pass the updated bill by unanimous consent, within a House vehicle.

Most interest groups lauded passage of the legislation, which for the first time gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority to order a recall of tainted food. Currently, the FDA must ask producers to pull tainted products from the shelves.

"Americans sitting at their dinner tables should have greater confidence that their food will be safe when this long-overdue law is put into place," said Shelley Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group.

But the United Fresh Produce Association, a lobbying group, said it had a "mixed reaction" to the legislation because it included an amendment that gives some exemptions to certain small farms.

"We remain fearful that this profound error will come back to haunt Congress, public health agencies, and even those who thought they would benefit from food safety exemptions," said Robert Guenther, United Fresh's senior vice president for public policy.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.