On Wednesday, the House approved a $1.1 trillion continuing resolution funding the government through Sept. 30. The bill, which passed 212-206, freezes 2011 discretionary appropriations at the current level, according to an article in The Hill. Also part of the bill is food-safety legislation – that includes the Tester amendment – which was inserted into the Senate bill. The Tester amendment provides exemptions for small growers.
The House will now send the $1.4 billion food safety bill to the Senate as part of the giant year-end budget bill.
For more information about the Senate bill,.
What follows are comments from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Robert Guenther, senior vice president of United Fresh Produce Association about the passage of H.R. 3082:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement Wednesday evening, following the passage of the bill:
“Parents deserve to have confidence that the food they are feeding their children is safe (FDA Food Safety). Yet recent outbreaks of foodborne illness from common foods – from spinach and tomatoes, to peanut butter and cookie dough – have too many people feeling uncertain and scared.
“The landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will fundamentally alter the way we protect public health and the safety in our food supply, trying to prevent contamination before it happens. It also improves our capability to detect and respond to foodborne illness, and, for the first time, requires importers of food to the U.S. to verify the food meets U.S. FDA Food Safety standards. "With our nation’s children first in mind, Congress has passed a major overhaul of American Food Safety that will protect lives and stop illness.”
Source: Office of the Speaker of the House
United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther provided the following statement on the House passage of the Senate food safety bill as part of the Continuing Resolution:
“United Fresh has strongly supported modernization of our food safety laws for the past four years, working with Members of Congress and the Administration, and testifying before House or Senate committees more than 10 times. There is no doubt the food safety bill passed as part of the Continuing Resolution contains a number of important provisions that we have long supported, including implementation of preventive controls for production and processing of specific fruits and vegetables when shown necessary by a risk-based, scientific analysis by FDA.
Yet, the Tester amendment inserted into the Senate bill, and now passed by the House, weakens public health protection by exempting some producers and processors based only on the size of their business, their geographic location, or to whom they sell their products. The statutory enactment of non science-based exemptions would limit FDA’s ability to assure consumers that all foods they purchase, whether at grocery stores, restaurants, farm markets, or elsewhere, have met the same food safety standards. We fear that this profound error will come back to haunt the Congress, public health agencies, consumers and even those who thought they would benefit from food safety exemptions. Food safety must be a universal commitment, shared by all who would grow, process and sell foods.
While the food safety bill will do much good, it is highly regrettable that the House leadership failed to exercise its responsibility to engage with the Senate in a conference to fix these provisions. Our industry and a large number of House members have urged repeatedly over the past week that a conference could be completed within the remaining days of this session. When it became apparent that the House would need to pass its own bill due to the constitutional problems with the Senate bill, this afforded the direct opportunity to provide due diligence to correct this mistake, and send a better bill back to the Senate, which must again pass the bill in any case.
For all of us who have worked long and hard to pass food safety reform, this is a bittersweet moment, with a job only partially done. As we look ahead, we will continue to voice our strong support for uniform, risk-based food safety standards, whether in the remaining days of this Congress, or in the new Congress convening in January.
Source: United Fresh news release