FOOD SAFETY NEWS SCAN: Food safety bill, delay in egg inspections

Sep 30, 2010

Reid maneuvers to bring food safety bill to Senate floor after election
Before the US Senate adjourned yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took a step to bring a stalled food safety reform bill to the Senate floor after the Nov 2 election, according to a Food Safety News report today. An aide said Reid filed cloture on the bill, which begins the process of moving the bill to the floor under restricted debate, removing the possibility of a filibuster and circumventing objections from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. The step will require 60 votes. Democratic leaders tried twice last week for unanimous consent to bring the bill to the floor, but Coburn objected both times, citing the bill's cost, the story said. The legislation may be one of the first bills up for consideration when Congress reconvenes after the election, but it will compete with several other major issues, including whether to extend the Bush tax cuts. The House passed its version of a food safety reform bill last year, but the Senate version has stalled, despite bipartisan support and a series of foodborne disease outbreaks. The bill would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greater authority to test food, improve its ability to trace outbreaks, and enable it to order food recalls, the story noted. The Senate adjourned for its campaign recess last night and the House followed suit early today, after passing a funding extension measure to keep the government operating, according to news reports.
Sep 30 Food Safety News report

Biosecurity misstep during training may have delayed egg inspections
Delays in implementing the inspections required by the new egg safety rule can be traced to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert who committed biosecurity breaches followed by poor behavior while training inspectors back in July, according to the New York Times. This delay prevented inspectors from beginning Jul 12 when the rule went into effect. Instead FDA workers began inspections just recently and were not prepared to start them after the Salmonella outbreak traced to two Iowa farms was first revealed in August. According to the article, the FDA's Marilyn Balmer parked too close to hen houses on two Pennsylvania farms when she was training inspectors on egg safety. This action is a biosecurity breach, because the vehicle may have driven through manure and could spread pathogens to the poultry. When the breaches were brought to her attention, Balmer became belligerent, according to the story, and later got into a heated argument with another instructor in front of the trainees. The brouhaha caused the FDA to re-evaluate the training program, which led to the delay in its implementation. Jeff Farrar, FDA director of food protection, said inspections are now on track. "We are ready, we're inspecting farms, we're fully trained," he said.
Sep 29 New York Times story

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