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Advocates Turn Up the Heat on Food Safety Bill

Victims of foodborne illness will travel with their families to Washington, D.C. next week to again lobby for the pending Senate food safety bill.

The broad coalition of interests backing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act appear to have the wind at their backs with the massive egg recall sparking widespread attention to food safety issues.

A few weeks ago the Senate released a bipartisan manager’s agreement, a key step forward for a bill that had been stalled for months behind more pressing priorities like health care and Wall Street reform. The next step is for Senate leaders to find time to bring the bill to a floor vote.

“The No. 1 goal of these victims and families of victims is to get this bill to the floor,” Sandra Eskin, director of the Food Safety Campaign at Pew Health Group, told Politico this week. “The ongoing egg outbreak and recall has generated a lot of interest in food safety and the bill, and we need to keep the spotlight on the Senate to act.”

The group of eaters-turned-advocates will be in D.C. next Tuesday to Thursday, meeting with Senate staff. The Make Our Food Safe Coalition–which includes the Pew Health Group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Consumer Federation of America, among others–will hold a press conference focused on the slew of FDA-regulated food recalls that have been announced since the House passed its version of the bill in July 2009.

According to a study by the Make Our Food Safe Coalition, more than 60 such products were recalled between mid-July, when the House approved its version, and March 2010.

In an effort to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the coalition released a poll in July that found 82 percent of voters in Nevada support the bill. (link)

According to Politico, the group is also circulating a video of Reid promising 12-year-old Rylee Gustafson–who battled a severe E. coli infection after eating spinach– that the Senate “would do everything we can to get this legislation done.”   

“[T]his visit here is extremely important to me,” Reid told Gustafson in October 2009. “It will give me more determination to get something on the floor.”

As Politico notes,  “[F]ulfilling that promise, given the Senate’s tight schedule when it returns from recess Sept. 13, remains difficult. Though the egg recall has exposed the flaws in a nearly century-old food regulatory system, logistical realities on the Hill make it highly improbable that the president will receive a bill to sign in the near future.”

A top Democratic aide told Politico he was “hopeful” the Senate could move the bill, adding that proponents of the legislation are working on a time agreement.

“Hopefully, we can get this done, but Republicans aren’t inclined to give us much of anything right now,” the aide told Politico.

Food safety advocates and sponsors of the legislation maintain the bill had strong bipartisan support, a feat in the current political climate.

“This is a firmly bipartisan bill,” said Eskin. “The Senate has pushed through some very important pieces of legislation this Congress, and from our perspective, it’s time to take this up.”

© Food Safety News
  • dangermaus

    Again, another sad story about someone affected by food-borne illness presented without context to emotionally bully people into supporting a bill that unnecessarily, fundamentally changes the way that food production is regulated.
    The FDA’s problem is that it doesn’t have enough resources to do enough inspections of large-scale industrial production facilities – not that it doesn’t have the power to inspect each and every situation where food is produced. This bill, though well-intended, assumes that its fundamentally unsafe to produce food in traditional ways, and that no one would ever choose to live that way.
    The standards that this bill represents say that corn syrup is better for you than fresh eggs.