Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), currently the longest-serving member of Congress and a fierce advocate for tougher food safety laws, is again calling out the Senate for stalling on pending food safety legislation to modernize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Americans are being forced to play a game of Russian roulette with the food they eat,” wrote Dingell, in an Op-Ed in POLITICO yesterday. “[L]egislation that could transform the nation’s food-safety laws continues to languish in the Senate, while American families are forced to hope for the best and fear the worst.”
As Dingell notes, the Senate was widely expected to take up the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, for a vote this week, but Democratic leadership decided to instead focus on financial regulatory reform.
The House passed a similar, but stricter, bill with bipartisan support in July. The Senate version has remained stalled behind other priorities–namely health care reform–since it was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November. According to Dingell, the legislation would make “the most fundamental changes in our food-safety laws since 1938.”
“I know there are many lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, who care deeply about this,” he wrote. “I am appealing to them to move this bill. President Barack Obama has said he wants something done. Now is the time to make it happen.”
In the article, Dingell emphasizes the importance of timing amidst a jam-packed legislative agenda. “It is easy to lose sight of the importance of addressing food safety without a major outbreak in the news. And it will be easier to overlook the importance of the issue as we wade deeper into partisan divisions over financial regulatory reform and Supreme Court matters.”
“But we delay action on this bill at the peril of the American people. We cannot wait for another outbreak before we act,” he added. “To put the Senate’s delay to act on similar legislation in perspective, since the bill passed the House, more than 150 food-related safety alerts, market withdrawals and recalls have been issued by the FDA and the food industry.”
“There are moments when problems are identified, appropriate solutions crafted and yet no action is taken to remedy the maladies of the American people. These moments are rare and unfortunate.”
“The House has taken appropriate action,” wrote Dingell. “The longer the Senate delays action, the longer a remedy to a serious problem remains.”
The timing of the FDA food safety bill remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the opposition from small, sustainable farmers is growing, and negotiations over the final package of amendments are ongoing.