Congress Does Something: Food Safety Bill Passes Senate

It's been slow going since the midterms, with only one week of work and partisan leadership elections taking up some time, but Congress marked its second significant achievement of the lame-duck session today as the Senate passed its food safety bill.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act passed on a 73-25 vote; the House must now pass it before it goes to President Obama's desk.

The most controversial element of this bill--restrictions on bisphenol-A (a common chemical in plastics)--had been dropped, paving the way for a decidedly uncontroversial vote to pass it.

The bill gives new authorities to the Food and Drug Administration, including: access to facility records in a food emergency, more FDA inspections at all food facilities, the ability to force a recall of food suspected to be tainted, the power to suspend a food facility's registration if there's a sign of health risk, and increased funding. The bill also provides for independent labs to get accredited in food testing.

This is probably the most significant lame-duck accomplishment to date, and it is the second significant bill to pass since the midterms. On Nov. 18, the House passed the Telework Improvements Act, a bill designed to enable federal employees to work remotely, which President Obama signed. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) had introduced the food safety bill in March of 2009.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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