After more than a year of stalling, the Senate this week passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which would massively overhaul the food-safety system for the first time in decades. But, thanks to a procedural mistake, the Senate might have to pass the bill again, and Republicans are threatening to block it until Democrats agree to a deal extending the Bush tax cuts. Democratic leaders insist the bill will become law, and have heralded it as a "major accomplishment" and a "significant achievement." But what will it really do? (Watch a Russia Today discussion about the bill)
Safer food at long last: About 5,000 American die each year because of food-borne illness, and it's about time the Food and Drug Administration got "the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill," say Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser in The New York Times. Thanks to this bill, imported foods will now be subject to the same standards as those made in the United States, which is only "reasonable."
"A stale food fight"
If the bill ever actually becomes law: Don't break out the organic champagne just yet, says Mary Clarke Jalonick at Forbes. While it was supposed to be headed for a quick passage in the House, where an earlier version was passed last year, the "procedural snafu" has given Republican leaders the chance to block it. The bill contains fees that are tax provisions, so under Congressional rules, it needed to originate in the House, not the Senate. Democrats will have to scramble to save it before they hand over control of the House.
"Snafu could stall food safety bill"
This is just more job-killing Democratic meddling: Highly publicized salmonella and E. coli outbreaks have people panicked, say the editors of The Wall Street Journal. But the reality is "that food-borne illnesses have fallen by nearly one-third over the last decade — largely because businesses have every incentive to police themselves." This bill would only help the Obama administration do what it does best — saddle businesses with unnecessary, job-killing regulations.
"'Food safety' and the GOP"
There is a cost, but food safety is worth it: Sure, fighting salmonella comes at a cost, says Bryan Walsh at Time. "The legislation is likely to require an extra $1.4 billion of additional spending over the next five years, most of that at the FDA," and critics say it could nudge food costs higher. But the Senate bill exempts most small farms, and focuses and industrial operations, which "pose a unique threat to food safety." That makes this bill "a welcome start" to lessening contamination in the food supply.
"Food: The senate passes a Food-Safety Bill, but the problem isn't going away"