The U.S. Senate passed a food safety bill today that gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more power to police food companies. The bill, supported by the White House, passed 73 to 25. The House of Representatives passed its own version last year.

The Associated Press reported that the bill's prospects are “unclear” because there is little time remaining for the House and Senate to reconcile different versions before the lame-duck session of Congress expires. AP reported that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said he has agreement from some members in the House to pass the Senate bill, which would send the legislation straight to President Barack Obama's desk. Harkin sponsored the legislation.

The food industry, public health groups and consumer advocates backed provisions of the bill. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), in a statement by its president and CEO Pamela G. Bailey, said "We applaud the Senate for passing S. 510, The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.” Bailey said the “landmark legislation provides FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help strengthen our nation’s food safety system by making prevention the focus of our food safety strategies. We urge the House of Representatives to swiftly follow suit so that the president can sign this important legislation as soon as possible.”

The GMA said the act enhances public health and safety by:
•    Requiring all food companies to develop a food safety plan
•    Adopting a risk-based approach to inspection
•    Improving the safety of imported food and food ingredients

The bill does not apply to meat, poultry or processed eggs, which are regulated by the Agriculture Department. Those foods are subject to more rigorous inspections and oversight than FDA-regulated foods.

According to news reports, the legislation:
•    Allows the FDA to order a recall of tainted foods
•    Requires larger food processors and manufacturers to register with the Food and Drug Administration and create detailed food safety plans
•    Requires the FDA to create new produce safety regulations for producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables
•    Establishes stricter standards for the safety of imported food
•    Increases inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities, directing the most resources to those operations with the highest risk profiles