Author Eric Schlosser Films Action Alert for Food Safety Bill, As Timing in Senate Remains Uncertain

Consumers Union (CU) is adding some star power to their food safety advocacy efforts. Eric Schlosser, award-winning author of Fast Food Nation and co-producer of Oscar-nominated Food, Inc. recently filmed a video action alert for the group, calling on the Senate to pass a bill to overhaul the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) dilapidated food safety system.

The pending FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which would boost the agency’s authority and mandate, has been stalled in the Senate since it was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November. A slew of pressing legislative priorities–from health care to Wall Street reform–have left little time on the Senate floor.

The food safety bill continues to have broad bipartisan support, especially as small farmer concerns are ironed out. It is simply a matter of time.

schlosser-cu-iphone.jpgIn last week’s action alert, Schlosser and Consumers Union sent out a clear message: tell your Senators to make the food safety bill a priority.

In just under a week the alert has inspired over 12,000 emails, and likely a high volume of calls, to Capitol Hill.

The alert also caught the attention of Congressman John Dingell, who tweeted the link to his followers with an enthusiastic “Bravo!” Dingell is among the House members constantly hammering the Senate to move on the bill. The House passed a similar version last July with bipartisan support.

In the action alert, Schlosser points to the the oft-cited foodborne illness statistics. “Those numbers are way too high,” he said.

“The centralization and industrialization of our food system has made it very easy for dangerous pathogens to spread far and wide. That’s why we need a modern food safety system,” he says in the video. “We’ve seen what happens when we let Wall Street regulate itself, and when we let the oil industry regulate itself. It makes absolutely no sense to let the food industry continue regulating itself.”

Schlosser urged people to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and ask them to make the bill a priority for the next work period.

“I see why there are so many other issues–like saving the economy from collapse–that they’ve had to deal with, but this one seems like a no brainer,” Schlosser told Food Safety News in an interview. “It’s not a hot button political issue like abortion or gun control where there are passionate divisions and people on each side. There’s really nobody saying ‘I want MRSA in my pork’ or ‘I want E. coli in my ground beef.'”

“I think it’s tragic if these people in Washington are behind the curve, especially when the cost of being behind the curve is so high,” said Schlosser.

Food safety advocates are still optimistic the Senate could take up the bill in the next work period, before the month-long August recess. Senate staff tend to agree there is a possibility, but the timing, as it has for months, remains uncertain.

When the Senate returns from the Fourth of July recess the food safety bill will compete with a Supreme Court nomination, climate change, and jobless benefits for floor time.