The future of the Food Safety Modernization Act remains ‘iffy’

The future of the Food Safety Modernization Act remains ‘iffy’

S.510, which would bring about sweeping food safety reform in the United States, was cut from the Senate's omnibus spending bill. Is there any hope left that the bill will reach the President by close of 2010?

Following the movement of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) in Congress over the last several weeks has been like watching a tortuous zombie movie. First the bill was declared dead because of a Senate rule-writing error, then it was resurrected when the House folded it into the big omnibus spending bill and now it looks pretty much dead again after the defeat of the omnibus spending bill last night.

But wait: Is that a finger moving?

A spokeswoman from the Organic Trade Association (OTA) says House Democrats plan to include S.510 in the new continuing resolution (CR) that must be passed to fund the government past December 18. That said, Senate Republicans have said they would block any CR that includes the food safety bill because it would increase funding for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that is not offset. “That is what the OTA understands at this point early Friday afternoon,” the OTA’s Barbara Haumann told “Right now it is iffy whether the bill will pass this year.”

John Gay, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association, was more pessimistic. "Food safety is in trouble," he said. "We don't know how this short term CR is going to go, but I think it's a tough row to hoe."

The NPA and OTA are among the supporters of the Food Safety Modernization Act within the natural, organic and healthy products market.

The good news, Haumann said, is that the new Congress is expected to take up the issue of food safety early in the new year. “We are optimistic that it will be considered in the next Congress,” said Haumann. “Neither the House nor the Senate objected specifically to the bill. The back and forth has been due to procedure.”

The Senate passed S.510 with a bipartisan vote of 73-25 on Nov. 30.

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