Democrats aim for new vote on U.S. food safety law
House Democratic leaders may try for the second time in two days on Thursday to pass a sweeping reform of the U.S. food safety system that would step up federal inspection of food makers.
The bill, drafted in response to recent outbreaks of illnesses linked to peanut butter, spinach and peppers, would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to order food recalls, require facilities to have a food safety plan in place and give FDA more access to company records.
Representatives defeated the bill on Wednesday, when it was debated under special rules that limited debate to 40 minutes but required a two-thirds majority for passage. The vote of 280-150 fell short of the 288 needed to pass.
Democratic leaders listed the bill for possible debate on Thursday under a format that would require only a simple majority for passage, or 218 votes if all lawmakers are present. Like Wednesday, no amendments would be allowed.
Senior Democrats said they made revisions to assure the bill would not bury small farmers or small food stands in paperwork and to exempt small operators from the $500 a year registration fee that would be charged for large processing plants.
“For instance, the substitute amendment provides that farms, including those that process food and feed that they sell to other farms or primarily directly to consumers, do not have to register or pay. In addition, retail food establishments that sell products directly to consumers also do not have to register or pay,” said the Rules Committee in proposing to limit the bill to one hour of debate.
Rural lawmakers led the opposition to the bill on Wednesday with objections that small farmers or vendors at farmers markets would be treated the same as multinational companies.
A section of the bill dealing with fresh produce was modified so FDA would issue standards only for the riskiest types of products.
The registration fees would generate an estimated $189 million a year to pay for more FDA inspectors and other food safety work.
By Charles Abbott
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