Bennet-Backed Food Safety Bill to Protect Colorado Consumers Clears Key Senate Hurdle

Bipartisan Bill Includes Bennet Amendment to Ensure Fair Requirements for Small and Mid-Sized Agriculture

Denver, CO – After nearly a year of delays and a number of major food recalls, a bill backed by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to protect Colorado consumers by ensuring the food they feed their families is safe and of the highest possible quality cleared a key Senate hurdle today. 

The Senate voted today to begin debate on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act by a vote of 74-25, and Bennet urges his Senate colleagues to work together to pass this important legislation to protect Colorado families.

“As the father of the three little girls, I want to ensure the food we put on our tables is safe for our kids to eat,” said Bennet.  “Recent major food recalls, including the egg recall, highlight the need for this legislation to give Colorado parents some peace of mind knowing the food they put on their tables doesn’t put their families in harm’s way.  After nearly a year of needless delays, we need to stop the posturing and work together to protect Colorado consumers and finally bring food safety in this country into the 21st century.”

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act represents a major food-safety overhaul that includes:

  •   Requiring food processing and other regulated facilities to conduct an analysis of the most likely safety hazards and to create controls to prevent them;
  •   Directing FDA to establish science-based “performance standards” for the most significant food contaminants and improving food-borne illness surveillance systems;
  •   Increasing frequency of inspections, extending oversight to certain types of agricultural production, and mandating product recalls if not done voluntarily;
  •   Establishing more scrutiny of food imports; and
  •   Creating provisions for certifying or accrediting laboratories to conduct sampling and testing of food for oversight purposes.

Several recent food recalls highlight the need for this bill to protect Colorado families.  This bill’s passage comes on the heels of a recall of Mauri Gorgonzola cheese from Costco stores in Colorado, after the Colorado Department of Health and Environment found E. coli in a package of Oregon-manufactured gorgonzola.  Renewed concerns over food safety have garnered public attention following a salmonella outbreak this summer from eggs at two Iowa farms.  Investigations of these farms found several contaminations, and the outbreak led to the recall of 550 million eggs.

The current food safety program is outdated, under-funded and cannot properly prevent or address food safety issues.  This new bill will put a greater emphasis on preventing food-borne illness and gives the FDA the tools to appropriately deal with any problems that arise.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act includes several provisions Bennet pushed for to reduce the regulatory burden on small and mid-size farms and producers.  Bennet’s amendment directs the FDA to make sure any guidance or regulations:

  •   Are practicable for all sizes and types of facilities;
  •   Minimize paperwork by taking risk into account;
  •   Minimize the number of separate standards that apply to any individual facility; and
  •   Enable facilities to prepare their own food safety plans without the assistance of a consultant or third party, to the maximum extent possible.

“We need to make sure that these important new reforms protecting the safety of our food don’t unnecessarily threaten Colorado’s family farms,” said Bennet.  “These reforms will not work for Colorado’s small farms unless they are flexible and recognize the unique needs of our family farms and ranches.  The amendments I pushed for support family farms by ensuring these reforms work for all sizes and types of facilities.”

Bennet also supported two other amendments with the goal of protecting small and mid-sized agriculture while building robust and practical food-safety protections.  One amendment provides training and technical assistance to small and mid-sized, beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers through the United States Department of Agriculture.  The other amendment ensures fair rulemaking for small facilities by having the FDA consider risk when applying requirements and allowing the FDA to concentrate on high-risk facilities.

Recent Major Food Recalls

Dates

Product

Health Issue

Number of People Sickened

Number of Items Recalled

Aug-Sept 2006

Fresh Spinach

E. coli

More than 200, five deaths

N/A

Feb-March 2007

Peanut Butter

Salmonella

More than 625

326 million pounds of peanut butter and nearly 10,000 cases of peanut butter toppings

June-Aug 2008

Tomatoes, Jalapeno and Serrano Peppers

Salmonella

1,442; at least 282 hospitalized

N/A

Nov 2008-Feb 2009

Peanut Butter and Peanuts

Salmonella

714; nine deaths

3,900 products

June 2009

Cookie Dough

E. coli

70; 10 developed disease that can cause chronic kidney disease

N/A

May 2010-present

Eggs

Salmonella

Approximately 1,500

550 million eggs