California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Expected To Sign Food Safety Legislation To Expand FDA Powers

President Obama on Tuesday is expected to sign the food safety overhaul bill (HR 2751) into law, the New York Times' "The Caucus" reports.

Despite backing from the House and Senate, the bill's cost -- an estimated $1.4 billion over the next five years -- is likely to be challenged by Congress, as Republicans seek to reduce domestic spending (Stolberg, "The Caucus," New York Times, 1/3).

Legislation, Funding Details

The bill would:

  • Authorize increased government authority and involvement in food-related recalls and processing plant inspections;
  • Grant FDA enforcement powers in monitoring 80% of the national food supply (California Healthline, 12/15/10); and
  • Change FDA's focus from tracking outbreaks to becoming more involved in preventive efforts ("The Caucus," New York Times, 1/3).

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a front-runner for chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing agriculture and FDA, said the number of food-borne illnesses in the country does not justify the law's price tag, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg have said that funding will directly impact the legislation's implementation and effectiveness.

Food safety advocates and consumer groups that supported the legislation will be pressuring lawmakers to fund the bill, according to Erik Olson, director of food and consumer safety programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/3).

Olson said that FDA already has several hundred million dollars to begin enacting some of the new food safety laws but that additional funding is needed (Tomson, Wall Street Journal, 1/4).

Food-borne illnesses affect one in six U.S. residents and result in 3,000 deaths each year, according to CDC. A Pew Charitable Trusts study found that food-borne illnesses account for $152 billion in health care costs each year (Keefe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/3).

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