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Letter from the Editor: Go Throttle Up!

Making law can be lot like a Space Shuttle launch.  

One minute it’s “Velocity 22 hundred 57 feet per second…Altitude 4.3 nautical miles…Downrange distance 3 nautical miles.  Engines throttling up…Three engines now at 104 percent.  Challenger, go at Throttle Up…Roger, Go at Throttle Up.”

Then Challenger blew up and fell to the sea with all lost.

If and when later this month, Majority Leader Harry Reid brings S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, to the Senate floor, he at least won’t be dead if the whole thing blows up.

But it is past time to find out what is going to happen when its “Go, Throttle Up” for S. 510.

S. 510 will have to navigate its way through to a Senate floor vote at a time when its savvy opponents have mounted a national campaign in support of amendments by the team of Jon Tester, D-MT, and Kay Hagen, D-NC.

Those amendments would exempt “small processing facilities” from traceability, hazard analysis, and risk-based preventive controls.  Average gross income of less than $500,000 is defined as “small” under the Tester-Hagen amendments.

Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, will also be churning the waters on S. 510.  She wants to use it as a vehicle to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in food-contact containers.  A savvy negotiator, Feinstein might settle for a BPA ban for only baby bottles and so-called sippy cups.

That may be a sideshow.  If, however, Senators Tester and Hagen have a veto over the language that may be adopted by the upper body, it raises discomforting possibilities for S. 510 advocates.

First, plenty of people in rural America still want to drive a stake through the heart of S. 510.   If Tester-Hagen gets up too much of a head of steam, the Senate herd might be turned. “Go, Throttle Up!”

Second, until now the bill the House passed and S. 510 were thought to be close enough in the content to make most observers think the Conference Committee to work out differences would not be all that big of a deal.   If Tester-Hagen end up re-writing S. 510 too much, John Dingell, the longest serving member of the House who wrote the lower chamber’s bill, may have problems with Senate concessions.

Third, some observers think that while there maybe a solid Senate majority in favor of S. 510, it may be the very kind of bipartisan bill that Reid does not want chewing up precious floor time this close to the 2010 election.  S. 510 was unanimously recommended for passage by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

These are but a few possibilities.  One thing’s for certain, though.  There are going to be many twists and turns to the S. 510 story before any food safety bill is ready for a Rose Garden signing ceremony.

Whatever is going to happen, however, it is time to light a match to this candle and see what the hell is going to happen.

Update:  Sen. Hagen’s party identification was incorrectly listed in the original version.  It has been corrected here.  

© Food Safety News
  • The legislative process is never easy, especially in a time of deep national division but readers of Food Safety News should not be mislead or confused by Dan Flynn’s dispairing projection that efforts to improve food safety law will crash and burn.
    Multiple outbreaks of foodborne illness over the past few years have hurt farmers, processors and consumers and made obvious the importance of updating the nation’s food safety laws. I’m pleased to report that the FDA modernization legislation is alive and well with strong bipartisan support in both houses of congress.
    The bill passed the House with more than a 2/3rds majority a year ago and has the strong bipartisan support necessary to get a bill through the Senate. Supporters in Nevada and Kentucky have just run ads very pointedly urging Senators Reid and McConnell to put public health ahead of their partisan agendas. Last week President Obama weighed in urging the Senate leaders to bring S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, to the floor.
    The House and Senate bills are quite similar and likely to remain so.
    Senator Tester is committed to protecting small farmers but he also supports improved public health protection. He reached out to consumer and public health advocates to find ways to assure both goals are met and we believe the efforts have been successful. Senator Hagen, a member of the HELP committee, voted to report the bill favorably. For the record, Mr Flynn should know she is a Democrat, not a Republican. Mr Flynn may also not know that Michigan has many small farms, a substantial number of them in Representative John Dingell’s district. Mr. Dingell has an interest in assuring that FDA reform meets the concerns of small farmers while reducing the terribly high rate of foodborne illness in the U.S,. He also has the experience and skill to work with the Senate to assure a final bill will do both.
    It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and expound on all the reasons why a new venture will never work. It’s the folks who dig in and find solutions to the multiple problems that impede progress who get to experience the thrill of space flight or to know they’ve helped reduce the threat of illness or death from contaminated food.
    Carol L Tucker-Foreman
    Food Policy Institute
    Consumer Federation of America

  • Ann Quinn, consumer

    Junk food is still selling, Mr. Flynn, at record rates,
    and the entrenched food industry lobby has more money to
    spend than you and I can even dream of. But I agree
    it’s time to see if our representatives in Congress are
    coming down on the side of the agra-food-industrial farm
    lobby or the side of increased food safety for U.S.
    consumers. That way concerned food safety consumers will
    know how to vote come November.

  • The legislative process is never easy, especially in a time of deep national division but readers of Food Safety News should not be mislead or confused by Dan Flynn’s dispairing projection that efforts to improve food safety law will crash and burn.
    Multiple outbreaks of foodborne illness over the past few years have hurt farmers, processors and consumers and made obvious the importance of updating the nation’s food safety laws. I’m pleased to report that the FDA modernization legislation is alive and well with strong bipartisan support in both houses of congress.
    The bill passed the House with more than a 2/3rds majority a year ago and has the strong bipartisan support necessary to get a bill through the Senate. Supporters in Nevada and Kentucky have just run ads very pointedly urging Senators Reid and McConnell to put public health ahead of their partisan agendas. Last week President Obama weighed in urging the Senate leaders to bring S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, to the floor.
    The House and Senate bills are quite similar and likely to remain so.
    Senator Tester is committed to protecting small farmers but he also supports improved public health protection. He reached out to consumer and public health advocates to find ways to assure both goals are met and we believe the efforts have been successful. Senator Hagen, a member of the HELP committee, voted to report the bill favorably. For the record, Mr Flynn should know she is a Democrat, not a Republican. Mr Flynn may also not know that Michigan has many small farms, a substantial number of them in Representative John Dingell’s district. Mr. Dingell has an interest in assuring that FDA reform meets the concerns of small farmers while reducing the terribly high rate of foodborne illness in the U.S,. He also has the experience and skill to work with the Senate to assure a final bill will do both.
    It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and expound on all the reasons why a new venture will never work. It’s the folks who dig in and find solutions to the multiple problems that impede progress who get to experience the thrill of space flight or to know they’ve helped reduce the threat of illness or death from contaminated food.
    Carol L Tucker-Foreman
    Food Policy Institute
    Consumer Federation of America