The US House of Representatives has passed legislation designed to strengthen food safety in the country, giving the Food and Drug Administration greater enforcement powers and resources to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses.

The reforms come in response to a series of high-profile outbreaks, including salmonella in cookie dough, peanut butter and spinach as well as E. coli in beef products.

The bill, which was passed by 283 votes to 142 votes, was pushed through on its second attempt after representatives from rural states won concessions to protect the interests of farmers. Farmers will be exempt from the FDA registration fee and regulators will have limited access to farm records.

The FDA's power to set production standards will also be limited to include foods that are considered to represent the highest risk of contamination.

Farms and food production facilities already regulated by the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service - 20% of the US food supply - will not be subject to FDA oversight.

The bill provides the FDA with the authority to order recalls and quarantine foods, establish a traceability system and an importer verification program. The FDA would also be required to conduct more frequent inspections, set "science-based performance standards" and establish a programme for accreditation for testing laboratories.

The majority of food manufacturers will be required to pay a US$500 fee to register each manufacturing facility with the FDA.