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Senate unanimously approves food-safety overhaul legislation

The Senate unanimously approved a food-safety overhaul bill that would give the US government greater authority to set and enforce safety standards for farmers and food processors.

The legislation would affect nearly all whole and processed foods, including petfood, with the exceptions of meat, poultry and some egg products that are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. The current system relies on government inspectors to catch contamination; however, this new legislation would require farmers and manufacturers to not only implement strategies to prevent contamination, but also test them continuously to be sure they are effective. Additionally, the measure would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to recall food, which is currently left up to companies on a voluntary basis, and would allow FDA access to internal records at farms and food-production facilities. Importers would also be required to verify that products grown and processed overseas comply with US safety standards. The bill is expected to cost US$1.4 billion over the next four years.

A version of this bill was approved by the Senate three weeks ago but required a new vote due to a determination that the Senate's original version violated a constitutional provision requiring all new taxes originate in the House. The House will now vote on this latest measure, which is expected to pass and be signed by President Obama, according to The Washington Post.

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