Congress and the Administration are considering legislation, rules and guidance that would make food healthier, safer, more affordable and produced in ways that treat animals humanely and protect the environment.
Some pending bills, rules, and guidance include:
(S - Senate; H.R. - House of Representatives)
S. 3239/H.R. 3798, Egg Production Inspection Act Amendments of 2012
These bills seek to codify an historic agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers to improve living conditions for laying hens. It would require larger cages for hens and prohibit inhumane treatment such as starvation and excessive ammonium levels.
H.R. 965/S. 1211, Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011
These bills would amend the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to deny any application for nontherapeutic use of a new animal drug if it is a critical antimicrobial also used to treat humans, unless the applicant can show that there is "a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health" due to development of antimicrobial resistance. The bills also require that existing nontherapeutic use of such drugs be halted after two years unless certain safety requirements are met.
H.R. 6509, Reducing Food-based Inorganic and Organic Compounds Exposure Act
This bill would require that the Food and Drug Administration establish limits on the amount of arsenic allowable in rice. The bill was filed in response to an investigation by Consumer Reports magazine and the initial results of an ongoing study by the FDA. Together, these reports point to potentially alarming levels of arsenic, one form of which is carcinogenic, in rice and rice products.
S. 3240, Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012
H.R. 6083, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012
These bills would reauthorize food and farm policies and programs, collectively known as the farm bill, that include nutrition assistance, crop insurance subsidies, conservation, rural development, renewable energy, livestock regulation, foreign food aid, agricultural research and more.
A federal interagency working group has proposed voluntary guidelines on marketing food products to children. The guidelines set out two basic nutrition principles for food companies: (1) Advertising and marketing should encourage children to choose foods that make meaningful contributions to a healthful diet, including vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. (2) Saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and sodium should be limited to minimize the negative impact on children's health and weight. Food companies have updated their voluntary guidelines in response to the IWG's proposal, but the Administration has withdrawn its own proposal after Congress demanded a cost-benefit analysis.
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Implementation
More than 18 months ago, President Obama signed legislation to reform America's outdated food safety system. The law calls for new safety standards for food companies and produce growers, increases inspections of food processing facilities and farms, and requires greater oversight of imported foods and food ingredients. The administration, however, has yet to issue regulations to implement the law.
H.R. 3286/S. 1773, Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act
This bill makes changes across a wide spectrum of food and farm policies to: promote small, beginning and sustainable farmers; expand local and institutional markets for growers; increase access to local and healthier food options, particularly for low-income populations; remove or reduce barriers to the purchase of locally grown and produced food by federal nutrition programs; and more. Some aspects of the bill have been incorporated in the House and/or Senate versions of the pending farm bill.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act includes a provision requiring restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to provide consumers with calorie information on menus and menu boards. Other nutrient information - fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and total protein - would have to be made available in writing upon request. The Administration has not yet issued a final rule to implement this provision.
School Meals Implementation
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act gave the USDA power to set nutrition standards for food sold to students "a la carte" outside school meal programs. New research has found that setting tough standards for snack foods and beverages sold in school could help students maintain a healthy body weight. USDA yet to issue regulations to implement the law.