After major recalls for eggs, peanut butter, eggs, and more the Senate has passed a "sweeping overhaul" of the nation's food laws. The new legislation was passed 73-25 (2 Senators did not vote) and will give the FDA much more oversight of food production in the US, plus the authority to enforce food recalls. Though the food bill passed through the Senate with an unusual level of bipartisanship, it may still not become law because there is not a lot of time left for the usual negotiations between the Senate and House of Representatives.
The House passed its own version of the bill last year, so now the two different versions need to be reconciled. The New York Times reports that "Top House Democrats said that they would consider simply passing the Senate version to speed approval." The main differences between the two versions boil down to the level of inspections and exemptions for various food producers. Small scale food producers and their advocates are applauding the new Senate version of the bill as it includes exceptions that allow small producers to continue to operate without some of the cost-prohibitive measures that larger producers can afford. The cost of inspections and amount of paperwork required by the House version of the bill had many small farmers worried they would not be able to stay in business.
Senator Tom Coburn (Republican from Oklahoma) delayed the legislation for months as he argued for his own version of the bill, saying that less oversight was needed, not more. The delay forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada) "to call a series of time-consuming procedural votes to end debate."
Both versions of the bill do not apply to slaughterhouses, which remain under the watch of the Department of Agriculture.
“This is an historic moment,” said Erik Olson, deputy director of the Pew Health Group, an advocacy group. “For the first time in over 70 years, the Senate has approved an overhaul of F.D.A.’s food safety law that will help ensure that the food we put on our kitchen tables will be safer.”