Last summer, a group of senators announced a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">food safety bill that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enhanced responsibility and is meant to provide the FDA with mandatory recall authority, mandate it increase its frequency of food facility inspections, better enable the hiring of new safety inspectors, and enable the FDA access to food producer records. The bill has been sitting in the Senate since last summer, but did pass the House over a year ago.
Now, some corporate and consumer groups are urging the Senate to push for the bill in its final days before going to the floor, said the Wall Street Journal. Lobbyists included the Food Marketing Institute; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Snack Food Association; and a number of consumer advocates such as the Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI), said the Journal.
Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada), the Senate Majority Leader, intends on scrapping the bill given there is not much time before Congress breaks for its mid-term elections and also in light of protests from one senior level Republican, said the Journal. “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is too important to delay passage any further,” said Scott Faber, a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, quoted the Journal.
Meanwhile, smaller farmers are concerned about how the bill could cost them and Senator Tom Coburn (Republican-Oklahoma) agrees, saying the bill would increase taxpayer burden, adding that the FDA could â€œpull the triggerâ€ too early in calling for mandatory recalls, reported the Journal. According to a spokesman for the senator, agencies are known for becoming â€œoverzealousâ€ with increased responsibilities.
One of the lobbyists, the National Association of Manufacturers, argued that the bill is needed to create industry food standards, pointing out that the bill protects all involved parties, consumers and industry, said the Journal. According to the Food Marketing Institute, it and Safeway Inc., Kroger Co., and Supervalu Inc. lobbied on Capitol Hill yesterday for passage of the long-awaited bill, said the Journal.
Although industry had been opposed to increased regulations a few years back, following a massive contaminated spinach recall in 2006 and a national E. coli scare, all of which led to huge losses industry-wide, industry has opted for increased regulations that provide stricter safety standards and regular inspections, explained the Journal.
Mr. Reid described Senator Coburn’s objections “unconscionable,” last week, but pointed out that resolving them would take more time than needed to see the bill pass at this point. A spokesman for the Senate Majority leader said he welcomed the lobbyistsâ€™ efforts, suggesting the group now focus on Republicans at this point, wrote the Journal. â€œWeâ€™re not going to be able to get this done before we go home for the elections,â€ Reid announced on the Senate floor, said CQ Politics.
Opposition has delayed and ultimately quashed the bill, said AOL News earlier, with Coburn saying he would continue blocking the bill until Democrats determine how to manage the billâ€™s costs, said AOL News, noting hat the bill is expected to cost $1.4 billion over five years. Coburn also described the bill as containing â€œweak mechanismsâ€ with â€œineffective implementation,â€ quoted AOL News. Regardless, bill advocates say the bill is critical to protecting the publicâ€™s health, citing a growing number of food borne related illness outbreaks and recalls that have been making headlines and have led to increasing numbers of related illnesses and fatalities.