Georgia Won’t Wait for Feds; Legislature Forges Ahead with Food Safety Bill

March 22, 2009

By Ricardo Carvajal –      

The Augusta Chronicle reports that the Georgia legislature will soon be sending new food safety legislation to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature.  Senate Bill 80 (S.B. 80), which was unanimously approved by both houses, directs the Commissioner of Agriculture to issue regulations that would require food processing plants to establish and maintain written food safety plans, and to test for the presence of poisonous or deleterious substances. The types of plants, foods, and substances subject to testing, as well as the frequency of that testing, would be determined by regulation. Testing would not necessarily have to be conducted by a third party, but it would have to be conducted in accord with standards and procedures established by the Commissioner. 

If testing indicates the presence of a substance that would render a food adulterated, the test result would have to be reported to the Department of Agriculture within 24 hours.  The applicable adulteration standard under Georgia law is the same as that in FDC Act section 402(a)(1) (i.e., a food is adulterated if it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health; but, in case the substance is not an added substance, such food shall not be considered adulterated under this paragraph if the quantity of such substance in such food does not ordinarily render it injurious to health).  Failure to report the test result would be a prohibited act.  Records of all testing performed would have to be maintained for two years and made available for inspection.

The prospect that S.B. 80 will become law could complicate efforts to develop federal food safety legislation, particularly if other states follow Georgia’s lead and amend their own food safety laws.  Federal legislators will have to grapple with the thorny question of whether to preempt state laws that impose different or more stringent requirements than those being contemplated at the federal level.  In the absence of federal preemption, the food industry would be left to face a patchwork of differing requirements across the country – a most unhappy prospect.

Categories: Foods