The US Senate has approved the biggest overhaul to the United States’ food safety laws since the 1930s. The new food safety bill, which passed 73 to 25 votes, will empower the Food and Drug Administration to place new responsibilities on farmers and food companies in order to prevent contamination as well as set safety standards for imported foods, and comes as the United States has seen a host of food poisoning outbreaks linked to a wide range of products including eggs, peanuts and spinach. Such cases saw thousands made ill with over a dozen killed, and one high profile instance even saw a woman die after eating peanut butter because it was contaminated with Salmonella. It is no surprise that such a concern bridged any bi-partisan disputes, leading to the bill being passed by such a huge margin.
Despite both Democratic and Republican parties supporting the bill, there was still some opposition, namely from conservative groups who saw it as another unnecessary government overreach. Right wing pundit Glenn Beck even theorised the whole bill was an elaborate way for the government to raise the price of meat and convert more consumers to vegetarianism!
However the largest amount of concern has come from the agriculture business, where farmers are worried about how the new regulations will affect them. They have argued that many cases of food-borne illnesses are the result of major companies, and they should not be expected to foot the bill for their errors. They also argued that smaller businesses should not have to meet the same standards as larger firms.
Of course, the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. Tainted foodstuffs cost the US economy billions of dollars each year with food poisoning scares seriously damaging the industry. On top of that, food poisoning has affected one in four Americans, with a staggering 5,000 dying each year from related illnesses. Hopefully the new bill will soon change that.
“It’s an unusual and shining example of how bipartisanship can work in Congress,” said Erik Olson, director of the Pew Health Group food programs, which led a coalition of consumer groups that backed the bill. “It is a major step forward protecting the food that everyone eats every day.”
Lead image © The Green Party