Senate to unveil food safety bill

The Senate Health panel is scheduled to release a bipartisan food safety compromise later Thursday, along with a Congressional Budget Office score, several senators said. 

The bill would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to recall tainted food, quarantine geographical areas and access food producers’ records. 

The compromise was worked out between six senators who have been working on the issue: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.); food-safety bill authors Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.); and lead co-sponsors Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). 

The House passed its version of food-safety legislation in July 2009.

In the Senate, outstanding issues included Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) bid to ban the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from food and beverage containers and Sen. Jon Tester's (D-Mont.) attempt to exempt small farmers from some of the new regulations. It's not clear yet how the two issues were resolved. 

"Any 100-year-old-plus structure — like our nation’s food safety system — needs improvements," the six lawmakers said in a statement.

"With this announcement today, we aim to not just patch and mend our fragmented food safety system, we hope to reinforce the infrastructure, close the gaps and create a systematic, risk-based and balanced approach to food safety in the United States. 

"The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will place more emphasis on prevention of food-borne illness and will provide new tools to respond to food-safety problems. We look forward to working with our respective leaderships to take up this bipartisan legislation as soon as possible." 

The Hill first reported on this development on Tuesday.