Q: What happens next for food safety legislation?
A: The only bills in play at the moment are S. 510 and H.R. 2749. Once health care is completed, the Senate will move to final passage of some version of S. 510. At that point, a conference committee of the two houses will conform those two bills and try to get identical bills passed through both houses and to the president's desk.
Q: Do you see any particular impact on natural and organic food production and retail, either positive or negative?
A: The major impact on organic food will be a heightened expectation of safety. Where organic has had a bit of a free pass because of its niche status, I think small organic operations will have greater expectations of safety and compliance, with more enforcement, just as is the case with conventional operations.
Q: Does the legislation seem like comprehensive food safety reform to you, or will further action be needed?
A: There won't be any more legislative action on food safety unless [the Food and Drug Administration] and Congress decide later that there are flaws requiring amendment. Once the law passes, the emphasis will be on FDA's rulemaking. Congress will then turn its attention to drug and device safety, which were shelved because all concerned decided that food required immediate attention.