Former Congressman Bob Barr and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are butting heads over bisphenol-A politics and the pending food safety bill.

Late last week Bob Barr penned an Op-Ed for Politico in which he placed the blame for the delay on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act squarely on Feinstein.

“How do you take a Democratic-sponsored piece of legislation that has already passed the House with reasonably strong Republican support, a bill that enjoys support even from business-oriented groups and that the administration supports–and screw it up so badly it may not even be voted on by the full Senate this year? Simple: You give California Sen. Dianne Feinstein a trump card,” writes Barr.

baby-bottle-bpa-featured.jpgBarr blamed the year-long “legislative limbo” over the bill–the House passed its version in July 2009, and the Senate HELP committee unanimously approved the measure in November–on Feinstein’s insistence that the bill include at least a partial ban on the use of BPA in food packaging.

“Whether the White House will weigh in with sufficient muscle to rein in California’s senior senator remains to be seen. There are at least two good reasons for the president and congressional leaders to do so,” continues Barr, explaining that the recent egg recall is providing opportune timing to finally take up the legislation.

Barr also cites low approval ratings of the President and Congress as reason to pass the “popular” bill.

“Staging a major signing ceremony on a popular bill in the Rose Garden, surrounded by consumers, farmers, food producers, and retailers, with a bipartisan bevy of congressional leaders, might offer at least an upward blip on the polling screen when the Democrats need all the help they can get heading into the November election,” he writes.

Barr goes on to outline the key tenets of the bill and highlight the broad coalition backing the bill.

Feinstein hit back in her own Op-Ed in Politico Friday, titled “The truth about food safety legislation.”

“I am not holding up the food safety bill. I have never expressed opposition to it, nor have I refused to allow it to move forward unless my BPA legislation is in the bill,” writes Feinstein. “I believe the food safety bill is necessary to strengthen the nation’s food safety system and protect consumers from foodborne illnesses. I am hopeful the Senate will consider this important legislation as soon as we return from recess.”

Feinstein says she has asked for the opportunity to offer an amendment to the bill that would ban BPA from children’s food and beverage containers, and that she is asking for a simple up-or-down vote.

Feinstein cites a number of studies that have linked low-level BPA exposure to health problems and points out that many companies are already offering packaging alternatives.

“I am offering this amendment because I feel very strongly about this issue,” she writes.

Major industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), which currently supports the food safety bill, have pledged to oppose the legislation if a BPA ban is part of the final package.  A ban would also draw new enemies to S. 510, like plastics and chemical interest groups.