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S. 510 Stalls Behind Financial Reform

The food safety bill pending in the Senate has hit another speed bump. S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, will not be brought to the floor next week, as was widely expected. Instead, the upper chamber will take up financial regulatory reform.

Senate-building-featured.jpgNot that S. 510 was going anywhere fast–the legislation has been stalled behind health care reform and other pressing priorities since it was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November. The House approved a similar version of the bill in July. For the past several weeks, however, the plan had been to bring the food safety bill to the floor near the beginning of the current work period, as it has broad, bipartisan support and is expected to pass easily.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), who introduced S. 510, told reporters yesterday that Democrats had rearranged the schedule and were looking to instead move a financial reform bill late next week. “We should move on financial regulatory reform as soon as it’s ready,” Durbin said, adding that he had requested a placeholder for food safety legislation on the calendar while the Senate worked on financial regulations.

A spokesman for Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told Food Safety News, “Chairman Harkin believes that passing this bill and modernizing our nation’s patchwork system is needed as soon as possible, and he knows that Leader Reid shares that commitment.  Clearly, there are a number of urgent priorities to address during this work period, including financial regulatory reform, but Chairman Harkin is confident that the bill will pass the Senate before we adjourn for the Memorial Day recess.”

The food safety bill will continue to compete with a busy legislative agenda. “We’ve got a range of issues–from a Supreme Court vacancy, a START treaty that I believe needs to be ratified, a host of other issues related to appointments–that we’re going to talk about and I’m going to be also obviously listening to congressional leaders about their priorities over the next several months,” Obama told congressional leaders yesterday.

Peter Hurley, a police officer from Oregon state, whose son four-year-old Jacob was sickened by Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter crackers in 2009, finds the change in schedule disheartening. “This affects every American, every day. Though financial reform also affects all of us, it’s important that this issue not continue to be put on the back burner.”

“To get this far, with bipartisan support, and to fall short… it’s frustrating,” said Hurley, who has testified before Congress and attended dozens of meetings with lawmakers to advocate for stronger food safety laws. “I know there are people who have been working on this for a decade–I can’t imagine their frustration.”

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See recent Food Safety News coverage of S. 510:

Farmers Gain in Senate Food Safety Battle April 15, 2010

Senate Gears Up for Action Food Safety April 13, 2010

NC Farmers Take S.510 Concerns to Consumers April 5, 2010

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    S 510 has not been stalled behind these other issues. The HELP Committee’s staff has been working long hours trying to handle the many issues which have been brought to it.
    Furthermore, the Senate has chosen to exclude local, healthy food from its public committee meetings and not seen fit to obtain formal input from either the Ag Committee or the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. In other words, the Senate has chosen to NOT fully deliberate the bill. Instead, it has gotten input from whom it wishes with the result that it only part of the story.
    As the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance website states, “As it is currently written, S. 510 will actually make our food less safe. S. 510 will strengthen the forces that have led to the consolidation of our food supply in the hands of a few industrial food producers, while harming small producers who give consumers the choice to buy fresh, healthy, local foods.”

  • Harry Hamil

    S 510 has not been stalled behind these other issues. The HELP Committee’s staff has been working long hours trying to handle the many issues which have been brought to it.
    Furthermore, the Senate has chosen to exclude local, healthy food from its public committee meetings and not seen fit to obtain formal input from either the Ag Committee or the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. In other words, the Senate has chosen to NOT fully deliberate the bill. Instead, it has gotten input from whom it wishes with the result that it only part of the story.
    As the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance website states, “As it is currently written, S. 510 will actually make our food less safe. S. 510 will strengthen the forces that have led to the consolidation of our food supply in the hands of a few industrial food producers, while harming small producers who give consumers the choice to buy fresh, healthy, local foods.”

  • David Plunkett

    The commentor above is confusing the terms “healthy” and “safety.” When consumers make the commendable choice to buy fresh, healthy and local foods they have an expectation that the food will also be “safe” from microbial contamination. Bacteria don’t check to see if the vegetables are growing on a small farm or an industrial farm. Bad practices that can lead to bacterial contamination don’t just happen on big farms. The fact that it is harder to identify the source of a foodborne illness when it affects a handful of people in one state, doesn’t make local food “safer.”
    S. 510 is a good bill that balances the need to protect public health with the desire to encourage healthy eating habits. It will give all farmers (big and small) guidance on safe practices that protect their customers against foodborne disease. Practicing safety is something every farmer should be doing anyway, so it is hard to understand how the bill imposes a burden on small farms as some have claimed. Certainly, the charge that Senators have not listened to small farmers is unfair and uninformed. Many of the Senate sponsors are from rural, small-farm states and have worked for years on issues important to sustainable and organic farming. They have listened and because of concerns voiced by the small-farm community the bill has been amended several times since its introduction. These changes protect small, sustainable and organic farming from unintended consequences without surrendering the public health protection that is the cornerstone and purpose of S. 510. FDA will only have authority to write safety standards for fruits and vegetables that are known to carry a risk of foodborne disease if improperly handled during growing and harvesting. Those standards are to be science-based and the minimum necessary to protect against contamination. FDA has to take the needs and practices of small and organic farming into account when writing farm safety standards. The preference for state oversight to continue as the best way to ensure local farms are practing safety is preserved. On-farm recordkeeping is limited to records that farms will keep anyway as a matter of good business practices. Most importantly, the bill provides a mechanism for States to apply for variances from the standards when practices or conditions in the State make it difficult to meet the FDA issued standard.
    Opponents have charged that S. 510 will create a one-size fits all regulation for farm production. If you read the bill, you will see that claim — while it might have held some water when the bill was introduced — is no longer true. The bill will help all farms (big and small, industrial and sustainable) practice safety. In doing so, S. 510 will ensure that when consumers make the wise choice to buy fresh, healthy and local food, they can rest assured it is also “safe” for them to eat.

  • Mark Battey

    This bill must not become law. It is essential that people be allowed to produce and sell their own food, especially in times of economic instability. It is also essential that growers be able to save their own seed without fear of prosecution from Monsanto.
    If the government wants to up inspections, I am all for it, we have had many problems since the Bush administration quit enforcing so many laws, but we must not tolerate having our right to produce food amd save seed eliminated.

  • Ed R Smith

    I am getting comments from people that there are “hidden” agendas and different perspectives in this bill that give the government too much power in regulating the foods they want us to eat. Would like a FULL copy of the bill.

  • http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:s510is.txt.pdf David
  • Kris

    Fresh, healthy, local food is much less likely to be contaminated with bacteria than industrial food. There are less hands for it to go through; usually, there are less animals crammed together in one place; there is less time where the food is being transported and stored; and there is less chance of cross-contamination.
    Please stop trying to protect people from every possible problem. We’re big kids now. It’s our responsibility to check out our food sources. If we mess up, it’s our own fault. We don’t need the government to look out for us in every detail of our lives. That is not their purpose.

  • Tina Elp

    I think it is wrong for the government to tell people that we can’t grow our own food especially for people like me who have to be careful of what I eat.