S. 510: The Loss of A Unique Opportunity to Improve Food Safety

The Food Safety Modernization Act Appears Dead in the Senate

Reports from Washington indicate that the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) will not come up for a vote in the Senate this session, rendering it effectively dead.

“I’m stunned,” said food safety attorney Bill Marler. “Even more than that, I am incredibly disappointed in our Government. This would have been the first real update of our food safety laws in over 50 years. That this legislation, which has been worked on for more than a decade by lawmakers, victims, industry, producers large and small, and a huge coalition of advocates like myself can’t come up for a vote in a body where it would easily pass is ridiculous. I can’t explain it—not to myself and not to those who have lost their health, livelihood, or loved ones to contaminated food.”

After passing the House (as HR 2749) overwhelmingly in July 2009, the bill moved to the Senate, where it has remained. The Food Safety Modernization Act aimed to bring regulation in line with twenty-first century food production, with the goal of reducing the number of those who are sickened food. Every year, 76 million Americans fall ill from something they ate. Of that number, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die.

“This was a unique opportunity to reverse the trend of huge outbreaks—peanut butter, lettuce, spinach, and cookie dough—that sicken consumers nationwide,” continued Marler. The Wright County Egg Salmonella outbreak is a perfect example. The FDA does not have the resources or authority to protect the food supply, something this bill would have provided. Public health was sidelined, and the public doesn’t even know what derailed it. We don’t know and we should.”