Food safety legislation, which would boost the authority and funding of the FDA has hit a major snag, reports Food Safety News. On the Senate floor yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Sen. Tom Coburn's objection to the bill's price tag meant the Senate was unlikely to take up the measure before the contentious midterm election season. "It's just a shame we're not going to be able to get this done before we go home...before the elections. What a sad thing for our country," said Reid."I really thought with this whole egg recall hitting everything all over the country right before [the Senate] came back, I thought that would give us the impetus we need," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. "And I think it did. I think that's why everybody's ready to move on it, except for Coburn (R-OK)." Coburn, who released a detailed memo yesterday outlining his concerns, takes issue with the bill's cost, $1.4 billion over five years, and with several major elements of the bill including: performance standards granting "extremely broad" authority to the agency, traceability requirements, mandatory recall authority, and fees. The senator also expressed concerns with commodity-specific produce safety standards.Twenty-two groups backing the bill, meanwhile, sent a letter to both Reid and Senate and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asking that the bill be scheduled for a floor vote "at the soonest possible date." "Strong food-safety legislation will reduce the risk of contamination and thereby better protect public health and safety, raise the bar for the food industry, and deter bad actors," read the letter, which was signed by two dozen groups, including Consumers Union, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va., said FMI was "extremely disappointed" in the delay. "The most important goal of America¹s food retailers and wholesalers is to provide nutritious, safe, high-quality and affordable food," she said. "We believe 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."
Dr. David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods at FDA, who now works as an industry consultant, told Food Safety News he believes there's about a fifty-fifty chance that Congress will produce a bill before the end of the year.