|Obama signs bill to overhaul food safety|
|Written by Emily Lloyd, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Thursday, 13 January 2011 23:04|
President Barack Obama signed a bill for a $1.4 billion overhaul on the nation’s food safety system Jan. 4, although some lawmakers questioned the expense of the project.
The main goal of the overhaul is to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses before they occur rather than just reacting to them. The overhaul allows the Food and Drug Administration to order the recall of unsafe foods for the first time and calls for an increase in government inspections of food processing facilities.
Currently, the FDA can only negotiate with companies in order to have food recalled.
While there have been outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella poisoning in the past few years in eggs, peanuts and produce, some Republican lawmakers feel the $1.4 billion cost of the overhaul is too high and believes the plan needs more detail.
“Newly elected Republicans to the House have had the campaign theme of spending cuts. If in fact they vote for new federal money to be spent they feel they need to find budget money from another program to cut to match the amount of government money spent,” Robert Bradley, politics professor, said. “This is the distributive monetary policy—taking it from one place and putting it in another.”
“I think we’ll look very carefully at the funding before we support $1.4 billion,” Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Besides budget issues, Bradley believes the other issue that lawmakers who oppose the overhaul have is with a lack of detail on where money will be spent with the new programs.
“They’re arguing that if in fact we spend so much money we want to know where it’s going. This goes into accountability for government money spent,” Bradley said.
Besides allowing the FDA to make food recalls and increasing the amount of government inspections at food processing facilities, this overhaul aims to increase the inspection of foreign food facilities that the U.S. imports from, create new safety regulations for producers of high-risk foods and require food processors to prepare safety plans and inform the FDA on what actions they take to maintain food safety at all stages of food production.
Because meat, poultry and processed eggs are regulated by the Agriculture Department, they are exempt from the law.
While this overhaul is a contested issue, Dianne Feasley, assistant director of Campus Dining, said that food safety is a very important issue for all Illinois State University campus dining centers.
“The first thing we do is buy from a reliable source that is nationally known and has their own food safety regulations. Then when the food comes in, we check the quality and the temperature of the food. We refuse any food that is not good quality,” Feasley said.
“All administrative staff are required to maintain a State of Illinois certificate in sanitation. This has to be maintained through taking a class on sanitation,” Feasley added. “We take food safety very seriously.”
While some lawmakers are opposing the overhaul, according to Bradley, government interjection into food issues is not a new thing.
“Not too long ago, the government approved mandating nutrition in school lunches. If they have a say in school lunches, why is there a human cry about food safety,” Bradley said.