eggs - food safetyA sweeping food safety reform bill aimed at ultimately making food safer for consumers is now awaiting approval from the U.S. House of Representatives after languishing in limbo over a technicality.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act by voice vote Sunday night. The bill's major sponsor, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, said in a statement after the vote:

"It has been almost a century since our food safety system was updated -- and over a year since this bill first started to move in Congress. Tonight, we achieved a critical victory, bringing this bill one step closer to the finish line. I look forward to standing with the President as he signs this important measure into law, and in so doing, giving Americans one of the best holiday gifts they can receive this year -- the assurance that the foods they are eating are safer."What the bill will do is overhaul the last 70 years of laws, create standards for farmers and food producers and give recall authority to the FDA -- hopefully reducing the instances of foodborne illnesses and recalls.

The Senate had passed its version of the bill Nov. 30, but when that measure went to the House for a vote, wording over new fees essentially stopped the bill. The Senate fixed that wording by amending the House version of the proposed act.

Consumer groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, praised the move and were hopeful of a positive House vote.

Consumers Union's director of food policy initiatives Jean Halloran also applauded the vote.

"This is a wonderful day for consumers. This day will be especially important to families whose children have suffered lasting damage to their health, and families who have even lost a child, because of contaminated food. Many of them have worked hard for this bill to prevent others from having to go through a similar ordeal. This bill gives FDA essential tools like mandatory recall authority to insure that the food we eat is safe," Halloran said in a statement.

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