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Publisher’s Platform: Food Safety on Life Support?

It is Saturday morning and I am watching and listening to the ongoing debate on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, which seems like it might pass. The “Dream Act,” on the other hand, seems like it will not overcome a Republican filibuster, and then there is the pesky thing called “START” — Senator Kyle seems to like those atomic weapons.

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As for food safety, time is running out. So, where are we on food safety as I drink my coffee – third cup?

The Senate vote for S. 510 was 74 to 25 in favor in November 2010, the House version H. B. 2749 was 283 to 142 in favor in July, 2009, yet we are seven days before Christmas and 13 days before the end of the year without a Food Safety Bill for President Obama to sign.  I will not go back through the last mistake (inserting a fee in S. 510) made by the Senate and the “fix” by the House to insert it in the Omnibus Spending Bill that barely came out of the House (212 to 206).  But here is where we are now:

1. The Senate Republicans did in fact require that the House Omnibus Spending Bill (a.k.a. the 2011 Budget), with the Food Safety Bill attached, be read in full (about 50 hours), so the Democrats pulled that bill;

2. The Continuing Resolution (a.k.a. the CR), with the Food Safety Bill attached, an alternative to the Omnibus Spending Bill, was also dropped because it could not get past Sen. Coburn’s filibuster threat;

3. So a CR, without the Food Safety Bill, was passed to run the government until next Tuesday.

When I landed in Seattle Friday night after a week in D.C., I thought the bill was dead (I certainly was tired). Then this morning:

Asked about the Food Safety Bill Saturday morning in a press conference covered by C-Span, Sen. Dick Durbin said:

“The good news is it is not dead, the conversation is still alive on the floor of the Senate today.”

He said he is hopeful it can be included in “the wrap up” for the lame duck session.

Someone asked if he knew a Republican co-sponsor was saying it was dead, and Durbin said: “I would have said the same thing an hour ago.”

So, a chance or just wishful thinking?  I do not know the answer to that.  However, it seems that the Food Safety Bill could be added into the voting line behind, or in between, the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” repeal, the “Dream Act” or “START.”  That of course would require the Senate working between Christmas and the New Year.  But the Food Safety Bill still would face a filibuster threat.  The question remains if the Democrats, and a few Republicans, will meet that threat.  As I said to a few press outlets yesterday, I would not bet on it:

Mother Jones

Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who represents the victims of food poisoning, was here in DC this week lobbying for the bill’s passage. He’s been working on it for years and thought the fight was finally over. Now he’s not hopeful that it will ever pass. “I can’t see of a way to get it done … It’s sort of mind-numbing to me that a bill that passed with more [votes] than it would take to make a treaty, in both houses, a bill that had that much support, is dying because of what it comes down to is power politics,” he says.


As if to drive home the need for the bill, Marler says he woke up this morning in DC only to learn that there’s been an E. coli outbreak stemming from cheese made with raw milk, some of the very products crying out for better regulation. “It’s not like I’m not going to be out of work,” he laments.

The Packer

“I think at this point it is safe to say the bill is dead,” said Seattle-based food safety attorney Bill Marler on Dec. 17. …


Even though the FDA is writing produce safety regulations, Marler said the agency won’t have the funding to conduct more inspections and to enforce rules.


“I think ultimately it will be up to industry to do their own self-policing,” he said. “I think unfortunately I am going to be as busy as ever.”

I guess that would be the Christmas present I do not want.

© Food Safety News