National Restaurant Association president and CEO Dawn Sweeney made the following statement regarding the July 30 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009:
"The National Restaurant Association applauds Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-Mich.), Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-Texas) for their leadership and collaborative approach to reform our nation's food safety system. We are pleased with the legislation's focus on prevention, increased resources and risk-based approach to targeting those resources.
"The safety of the food supply continues to be the restaurant industry's number one priority, and we - like consumers - rely on a supply chain that needs to provide restaurants with safe food to serve guests. We have been a strong supporter of comprehensive reforms that increase consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply. Confidence in the food supply is critical to the success of our industry and to consumers across America. We look forward to furthering our work with Congress as legislation moves through the process."
Key provisions of the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, as reported by The Washington Post, include mandates regarding registration, recalls and imports as well as:
Inspections: Food and Drug Administration inspections of food facilities would increase from about once every 10 years to at least annually for high-risk facilities and at least once every three years for facilities deemed a low risk. FDA inspectors will have access to company records.
Safe practices: For the first time, the FDA could set standards for safe production of food on farms, as well as require food manufacturers to meet safety standards.
Traceability: The secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to identify technology that can be used by food growers, manufacturers and distributors to determine the origin of food and its movement in the supply chain.
The bill's passage comes on the heels of a severe blight fungus outbreak in the Northeast that has impacted the region's tomato supply. Several experts have said consumers should expect to pay higher prices for tomatoes this summer. Organic farmers also are sustaining much of the damage, according to a story in the New York Times (registration required).