Pending food safety legislation hit a serious snag late Thursday as Senate Democrats abandoned their effort to fight for an all-encompassing provision to fund the government through September.

The fate of the food safety legislation, which was attached to both the House and Senate versions of wide-ranging spending bills, would be the first significant reform of food safety laws in several decades.  What happens next for the bill is not clear, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill work out the details to fund the government.

A funding agreement needs to be reached soon–the current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires at midnight Saturday.

House and Senate leaders are negotiating the details of what is expected to be a short-term continuing resolution, which would avoid a government shutdown and give the 112th Congress–along with its many incoming Republicans–the job of passing a longer term spending bill in early 2011.

Whether the food safety bill has any shot at riding a short-term CR to passage before the end of the year is uncertain.

Carol Tucker-Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America’s food policy institute, told Food Safety News the bill is “down but not out.”

“There is an opening to get it done,” says Tucker-Foreman, a longtime food policy insider who served as an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Carter administration.  “Everyone knows it passed both houses by [two-thirds] vote.  Everyone knows it would already be law if the Senate hadn’t made an error.” (Tucker-Foreman is referring to the Senate passing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which inadvertently contained an unconstitutional provision, earlier this month.)
“Letting it die now would not seem to enhance the public standing of the Congress,” she added.  “In fact, my guess is that if it does die, the Congress will be reminded of the above facts every time there is an outbreak.  And the outbreaks will continue.”

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