Senate Impasse Stalls Food Safety Bill; FMI 'Extremely Disappointed'
The U.S. Senate will not pass the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act before the midterm elections, much to the chagrin of industry and consumer groups.
Leslie G. Sarasin, president/CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, said the trade group is “extremely disappointed that the U.S. Senate will not act immediately to take up the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act before the midterm elections.
“The most important goal of America’s food retailers and wholesalers is to provide nutritious, safe, high-quality and affordable food. We all have a responsibility to work together to improve the safety of our food supply,” Sarasin continued, noting that FMI believes “the focus should be on trying to prevent problems before they occur by providing FDA the necessary resources and authority to help the agency protect our food supply. We commend the work done by Sens. Durbin and Gregg, Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Enzi, and the others who played a vital role in creating a bipartisan bill. We will continue to urge the Senate to take up this very important legislation as soon as possible.”
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he shelved the legislation at least temporarily, and blasted Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for the impasse. Coburn had notified fellow lawmakers that he would block the bill on the grounds that it's not offset by cuts elsewhere, and so would increase the federal budget deficit.
In addition to noting that the legislation will cost more than $1.6 billion over five years, the Oklahoma Republican on his website detailed other problems he has with the legislation.
Reid, the Senate majority leader, said earlier this week he thought the bill was close to being ready and could pass quickly. "We thought we finally had it worked out, we could come and take care of this," Reid said in a Senate speech. "But Sen. Coburn has said no. We've spent a whole Congress on this, and of course, at the last minute, he comes in and likely we will not be able to get this done before we go home for the elections. What a sad thing for our country. People are dying as a result of these problems with food. It is just a shame we can't get this done.".
Food safety advocates have lobbied Congress actively through the year, flying in victims of severe food poisoning and the family members of those who died from eating tainted food.
The pending bill would strengthen the police powers of the Food and Drug Administration to mandate recalls, enables it to hire more inspectors, and requires more frequent inspections of food plants. It also requires food makers and processors to have control plans in place that address known problems.