"Despite the toll — 5,000 deaths and 325,000 hospitalizations a year — Congress has typically been unwilling to strengthen controls on the growing, manufacturing and handling of food in the face of powerful industry resistance. But as profits and consumer confidence have plummeted with each new outbreak, the political climate has changed — so much so that earlier this week, a House panel reached unusual bipartisan consensus on the most sweeping reform of the food-safety system in at least 50 years.
The bill gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new powers to regulate produce at the farm level and review corporate records on activities ranging from food-processing to pathogen-testing. Inspections that now occur an average of once every 10 years would take place as often as once every six months for certain items. Foreign governments whose companies send high-risk products to the U.S., like seafood from China, would be required to certify that those exports comply with U.S. health standards.
At the center of the legislation is an effort to transform a slow and reactive government apparatus into a preventive food-safety system. Every processor or importer would have to implement plans to identify biological and chemical hazards in its products, like the salmonella discovered at a Georgia peanut plant linked to a national outbreak of the infection in 2008. Firms would be required to maintain strategies and procedures to prevent or stop such dangers. The FDA would set minimum requirements for plans and audit them, a government tool that may have headed off the peanut-borne bacteria that resulted in 700 reported illnesses and nine possible deaths."http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1904278,00.html?xid=rss-topstories