Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) predicted Tuesday that, if all goes well, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, will be “on the President’s desk by May.”
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)–which unanimously approved the Senate’s version of the food safety legislation in November, Harkin tends to stay in the loop on food safety issues in the Senate.
The pending bill has been stuck behind the health care gridlock for months, after the House approved a similar measure last July.
After a series of lobbying pushes and public calls for action, the Senate has yet to consider S. 510. First, there was the Thanksgiving push, where consumer and public health advocates asked for revamped food safety laws by turkey day.
Leading food safety lawyer, and an early candidate for undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bill Marler, even sent t-shirts to each and every senator to encourage action on the bill in the fall.
After Thanksgiving, there was the Christmas push. Advocates again called for action, this time calling for a bill on the President’s desk before Christmas. The bill was voted out of committee, but remained stuck behind health care reform.
Then came the recent Valentine’s Day push. Victims from the 2009 Peanut Corporation of America peanut butter outbreak sent letters to the senators urging action before the Hallmark Holiday.
Now the effort is up against another holiday: Easter.
As Sen. Harkin, noted at an appropriations agriculture subcommittee hearing earlier this week, the bill is now “about ready to go.”
“We’re hopeful we’ll have the food safety bill on the Senate floor, if not this work period, then it’ll be at the top of the list when we come back after Easter,” Sen. Harkin said at the hearing.
Pictured: President Barack Obama signs the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, also known as the “Kerry-Lugar-Berman,” bill in the Oval Office, Oct. 15, 2009 (cropped). (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)