Food Safety Overhaul Signed

January 5/Washington/Knoxville News Sentinel -- President Barack Obama signed a $1.4 billion overhaul of the nation's food safety system, as some lawmakers complained that it is too expensive and threatened its funding.

The first major overhaul of the food safety system since the 1930s, the law emphasizes prevention to help stop deadly outbreaks of foodborne illness before they occur, instead of reacting after consumers become ill.

It calls for increasing government inspections at food processing facilities and, for the first time, gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to order the recall of unsafe foods.

Obama made improving food safety a priority shortly after taking office in 2009.

There have been several deadly outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella poisoning in peanuts, eggs and produce in the past few years.

However, some Republicans lawmakers, sensitive to the public's concerns about high levels of government spending and debt, say the $1.4 billion, five-year price tag is too much and needs more scrutiny.

"I think we'll look very carefully at the funding before we support $1.4 billion," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., told The Associated Press in an interview. Kingston hopes to become chairman of the agriculture subcommittee of the House panel that helps set government spending.

Republicans who want to withhold funding would appear to have little chance of succeeding. The bill, which had the support of a number of major food companies, passed Congress with broad bipartisan support last year on a 73-25 vote in the Senate and by 215-144 in the House.

From the January 10, 2011, Prepared Foods E-dition