President Obama Signs New Expansive Food Safety Law

In the flurry of legislation passed by the 111th Congress in its final days, the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) cleared the Senate by unanimous voice vote on December 20, passed the House 215-144 the following day, and was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011 ("date of enactment"), immediately upon returning from his holiday vacation in Hawaii.

The FSMA amends the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) to confer FDA with significant additional authorities over food products, including the mandatory recalls and expanded inspection authority. The further strengthening of FDA's enforcement authorities over food products follows a spate of recent reports of tainted food products, including, for example, eggs, tomatoes, spinach, and peanuts.

With the enactment of this legislation, uncertainty now looms about how it will be funded. The CBO projects the cost of implementation of the FSMA to be approximately $1.4 billion over the next 5 years. The funding issue is further complicated by the fact that the legislation was passed in the final days of the 111th Congress, so it is the newly seated 112th Congress, with its shift in power in the House, that is charged with its funding. Concerns have been raised already by some members as to the cost of this legislation.

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