Senators Push to Boost FDA Food Safety System

WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators proposed changes in government food safety programs, which would empower the Food and Drug Administration to order recalls and open companies’ internal records for inspection.

The bill, which was sponsored by Senators Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, calls for increased inspections of food-processing plants and would require every plant to have a food-hazard prevention plan subject to federal review. Inspectors would gain expanded, though not unlimited, access to company test results for salmonella and other pathogens.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen major recalls of peanut butter spiked with salmonella, spinach laced with e-coli and chili loaded with botulism,” said Durbin. “These are not isolated incidents and are the result of an outdated, underfunded and overwhelmed food-safety system.”

The measure, which is called the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, is one of several competing proposals being developed by lawmakers to rework food regulation and oversight. The approach that wins out will reshape the $646 billion U.S. food industry, which includes Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., the world’s largest grain processor, and Kraft Foods Inc., the world’s second-largest foodmaker, behind Nestle SA of Switzerland.

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