Last Thursday, the Senate passed the Wall Street reform bill, handing President Obama his second major legislative victory of the year. The contentious bill, which narrowly passed though the Senate on a 59-39 vote, took over the Senate upon its introduction and halted the progress of most other legislation in the body, including S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act.     

Now that Congress has reached a conclusion on Wall Street reform, many lawmakers are calling for the passage of S. 510, citing recent foodborne illness outbreaks to underscore the need for a revamped food safety system.

Last Wednesday, May 19, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), author of the House companion bill on food safety reform, held a telebriefing conference to discuss the recent E. coli outbreak and the need for swift passage of the S. 510.

Specifically, Congressman Dingell said the recent E. coli O145 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, which has sickened 33 people in five states, was caused by an inadequate level of FDA oversight. S. 510, he asserted, would limit outbreaks like this in the future.  

“FDA needs the proper resources and authority to maintain proper checks on the food supply,” he said, explaining how provisions in the legislation would expand the power of FDA and its inspectors.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a well-known food safety advocate within the House, also urged the Senate to pass the Food Safety Modernization Act in a separate public statement last week.  

“The American people continue to be at risk from dangerous outbreaks while critical food safety reform legislation, which includes provisions that would be helpful in addressing a widespread outbreak through preventive controls and interventions, remains stalled in the Senate, Congresswoman DeLauro said Friday. “I urge the Senate to act quickly before more people become victims of contaminated food and our faulty food safety system–the longer the food safety bill is delayed, the more vulnerable our food safety system remains.”

Those working to pass the legislation say the Senate bill will be brought to a vote before the Memorial Day recess, but nothing is certain at this point.         

“Continued outbreaks of foodborne illness over the last several years–from spinach to peppers to peanuts–have demonstrated that these outbreaks are not random, unpreventable occurrences, but are due to widespread problems with the nation’s food-safety system,” Congressman Dingell said last week. “U.S. food safety oversight is broken and has been in need of reform for decades. This year, Congress has the opportunity to change course and help protect children, families, senior citizens, and all others from foodborne illness.”