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December 2, 2010

Food Safety Modernization Act: A Step Forward

S. 510 would provide safeguards for pet food as well

  • The Food Safety Modernization Act would give the FDA the power to make pet food safer. iStockphoto.com

The Humane Society of the United States commends the U.S. Senate and lead sponsor Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) for approving the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) by a strong bipartisan vote of 73 to 25. The legislation is an important step forward in protecting public health, and, if enacted, it will also provide much-needed additional safeguards for pet food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has jurisdiction over pet food, as well as feed given to animals used for human consumption.

Among its many provisions, the bill sets safety standards for imported foods, requiring importers to verify compliance, and gives the FDA authority to impose mandatory recalls of contaminated products. In 2007, massive amounts of imported pet food tainted with melamine killed or sickened many pets, helping spur legislation that year to strengthen food safety oversight. But the law passed in 2007 did not include mandatory recall authority or certification of foreign food sold to U.S. consumers.

“We’re pleased that the Senate reached bipartisan agreement on food safety legislation that will help not only people but also their beloved pets,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “We urge the House to move quickly again so this long-awaited legislation can be signed into law before the end of the year.”

In July 2009, the House approved its own version of food safety legislation, H.R. 2749, introduced by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) S. 510 passed the Senate in the wake of numerous outbreaks of food poisoning, including recent scandals involving egg contamination and filthy, inhumane conditions on factory farms, revealed in investigations conducted by the FDA and The HSUS.

The extreme confinement of birds in wire cages where they can barely move an inch for their entire lives is closely correlated to public health risks: Every one of the last ten published studies comparing cage to cage-free systems found higher Salmonella rates in cage systems, including a 2010 study that found 20 times greater odds of Salmonella infection in caged flocks. Hens stay in cages for one to two years during their lives, while filth builds up in the cage equipment, and when the flocks are eventually replaced it’s extremely difficult to sanitize these cages. If Salmonella is present, it is easily transmitted to the next population of laying hens. If S. 510 is enacted, the FDA could increase inspections at battery cage egg facilities, require industry plans such as phasing out cages to minimize risk, and shut down repeat offenders.

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