MFA News Scan Update

MFA News Scan Update

MA Food Association - January 3, 2011





JANUARY 3, 2011

US sets dates to end mail delivery of benefit checks

Soon, millions of people will no longer be able to get their Social Security and other benefit checks by mail.  New recipients of benefits will have to accept paperless payments starting on May 1 of this year, three months later than first proposed.  Those already on Social Security will have until March 1, 2013, to make the switch to direct deposits or a debit card.  Already eight out of 10 people getting federal benefits receive those payments electronically, officials say.  They claim they are still issuing 120 million payments by mail for Social Security every year and another 15 million annually for veterans and other types of benefits.  Every year, the government has to process about 600,000 claims for lost or stolen checks.  Social Security will save an estimated $1 billion over the next decade from phasing out paper checks.  In response to public comments, the government will allow people who are 90 and over and are still getting Social Security benefit checks to continue to receive their benefits the same way. The government estimates there are 275,000 people who fall into that category.  For people who do not have accounts at a bank or credit union, the government has an option that allows them to use a Direct Express debit MasterCard issued by Comerica Bank, the Treasury’s financial agent. More than 1.5 million people have obtained these cards, which were first issued in 2008.  To help with the switchover for those still getting paper checks, the government has created a website, and a toll-free phone number, 1-800-333-1795.



According to the Associated Press, President Obama on Tuesday was planning on signing into law an overhaul of the nation's food safety system as Republicans talked of withholding $1.4 billion needed to put the new requirements into place.  It would be the first major overhaul of the U.S. food safety system since the 1930s.  It would increase inspections at food processing facilities and allow mandatory recalls of tainted products.

Republicans will control the House when Congress comes back into session on Wednesday, January 5.  They have already stated publicly that statistically, the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates much of the nation's food supply, is doing a "very decent job on food safety already."  Some Republicans will push to deny the additional $1.4 billion, but they would appear to have little chance of succeeding.  The bill had broad bipartisan backing in Congress: a 73-25 vote in the Senate, followed by a 215-144 House tally.

The new law will:

-Require larger farms and food manufacturers to prepare detailed food safety plans and tell the FDA how they are striving to keep their food safe at different stages of production;

-Allow the FDA to order a recall of tainted food. Currently it can only negotiate with businesses for voluntary recalls;

-Require the agency to develop new safety regulations for producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables;

-Increase inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities; the riskiest domestic facilities would be inspected every three years;

-Require farms and processors to keep records to help the government trace recalled foods.

The new law would not extend to meat, poultry or processed eggs.  The Agriculture Department regulates those foods and subjects them to more rigorous inspections and oversight than foods regulated by the FDA.

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MFA News Scan Update

MA Food Association - January 3, 2011

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