In response to media reports that Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) insistence on a controversial bisphenol-A (BPA) ban is holding up the pending food safety bill, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), a force behind the lower chamber’s version of the bill, sent a public letter yesterday to Feinstein, urging her to reconsider her “obstruction” on the issue.
“It would be calamitous if a bill to protect American consumers from unsafe food cannot become law this year because of controversy over a single point,” wrote Dingell. “I implore you to not allow the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Dingell added that while he is “sensitive” to the senator’s concerns, he is respectfully asking the senator to “find a suitable compromise that would allow prompt consideration of critically needed food safety legislation.”
Feinstein quickly responded to the letter yesterday, saying she is not blocking the bill.
“I am surprised that, as a longtime legislator, you released a public letter based on inaccurate information before reaching out to me personally,” she said in a letter to Dingell, The Hill reported yesterday.
The senator said in the letter she does not have a hold on the bill and does not object to it coming to the floor for a vote.
In the letter, Feinstein said Senate leadership asked her to work with Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and ranking member Mike Enzi (R-WY) to arrive at a compromise on BPA. If the senators cannot come to an agreement, Feinstein says, she will “be happy to offer an amendment on the floor.”
Feinstein, and several consumer and health groups, view BPA as a critical public health issue, as the chemical has been linked to a slew of health problems, ranging from breast cancer to heart disease to neurological deficiencies. The FDA announced it has “some concern” about the chemical in January, but continues to review the growing body of scientific research on the issue.
Major industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who both currently support S. 510, have pledged to oppose the bill if a BPA ban is part of the final package. A ban would also draw new enemies, like plastics and chemical interest groups, to a bill that enjoys a broad coalition of support.
As Dingell noted in his letter yesterday, the window of opportunity for the Senate to act on the bill is closing with the August recess and a contentious midterm election cycle right around the corner.
“Time is running out,” Dingell warned in his letter. “Our choices are becoming increasingly clear, we can either find middle ground, or we can become obstinate in our views and fail to meet any of our goals.”