Nov. 5, 2010 /EIN Presswire/ – When Congress returns for its lame duck session later this month one of its agenda items will be a measure to tighten food safety laws. A measure to do that has passed the House and a Senate committee and is ready for floor action.

The bill likely would have passed the Senate earlier this year except for opposition by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma who held up a floor vote, insisting that the new enforcement authorities be paid for.

Food safety has been a hot item this year, spurred by a wave of sicknesses and recalls due to tainted milk, eggs, meat, peanut butter, beef and other foods. Just this week, the giant retailer Costco launched a voluntarily recall of Bravo Farms Dutch Style raw milk gouda cheese after reports that contamination made at least 25 people sick. The recalls affected distribution in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and California .

While senators from both parties and the White House favor the pending food safety legislation, the delay in passage has prompted second looks by many affected groups.

Questions have been raised about the power it would vest in the FDA to require and enforce food safety plans on producers and processors, large and small, to inspect financial records, to declare food emergencies and to quarantine large parts of the U.S. from certain products.

Critics also question the FDA’s perceived bias for big producers and processors at the expense of smaller ones.

One example of seemingly separate rules for the big guys as opposed to the small guys was the recent massive egg recall. The Iowa egg producer who distributed salmonella-tainted eggs that sickened more than 1,000 people was not forced by the FDA to shut down its operations. But two small raw milk cheese makers whose products hadn’t made anyone ill were closed after the pathogen listeria was detected. Whether trace amounts of listeria are dangerous is controversial among health experts.

For more food safety news, visit Food Safety News Today (, a food safety media monitoring service from EIN News.