President Obama issued a public statement yesterday in support of the pending Senate food safety bill, the first time the president has publicly pressed for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety reform since early 2009, when his Administration launched the Food Safety Working Group.

In the statement President Obama noted the Food Safety Working Group, chaired by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, has issued recommendations on how to upgrade the food safety system and he outlined a few of the actions the Administration has taken.

“My Administration has taken steps to reduce the prevalence of E. coli, implemented new standards to reduce exposure to Campylobacter, and issued a rule to control Salmonella contamination,” said Obama. “Among other accomplishments, the FDA has conducted a pilot study on a tracing system, and HHS, in collaboration with USDA, has rolled out an enhanced and updated site to provide consumers rapid access to information on food recalls.”

“But there is more to be done,” said Obama. “Today, I thank the House for its work and support efforts in the Senate to pass S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.”

“This bipartisan bill would complement the work already undertaken by the Food Safety Working Group,” he continued. “The bill addresses longstanding challenges in the food safety and defense system by promoting a prevention-oriented approach to the safety of our food supply and provides the Federal Government with the appropriate tools to accomplish its core food safety goals.”

As Food Safety News reported yesterday, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has remained stalled in the Senate since it was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November of 2009.

Advocates working on the bill welcomed the president’s statement as a sign that food safety reform has not been completely lost in a sea of ambitious legislative priorities.

“Members of Consumer Federation of America are grateful to the President for his leadership on this issue,” said Carol Tucker-Foreman, director of the organization’s Food Policy Institute.  “There is no reason for the Senate to continue to delay action on this important bill. Unlike other legislation that is stalled in the Senate because of partisan disagreement, S. 510 has strong support from both sides of the aisle.”

“The President has urged action. The House has already acted. The American people overwhelmingly support strong new food safety law that will reduce foodborne illness.  Senators Reid and McConnell should get on board and schedule this legislation for the floor next week,” said Tucker-Foreman.

Hill staff working on the issue remain hopeful the bill could be brought to the floor in the next work period, before the month-long August recess. Among the priorities that could compete with the bill for floor time: Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination, jobless benefits, Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, and climate change legislation.