Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is blasting the GOP for blocking a vote on legislation to improve the nation’s food supply, even after the recent recall of 228 million eggs.
Reid says that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and other Senate Republicans are filibustering the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), designed to better protect consumers from falling prey to tainted food.
“In light of recent events like the egg recall in Iowa, it is unconscionable that Senator Coburn and his Republican colleagues are putting politics ahead of a common-sense, bipartisan bill to ensure that the food products our families consume everyday are safe,” Reid says, referring to the massive recall of eggs due to possible salmonella contamination. “I suspect that Senator Coburn’s constituents in Oklahoma would be as outraged as the people I represent in Nevada at the prospect that partisan political maneuvering would cause parents to have to start worrying about the safety of the food they feed their families. There are too many people, like Rylee Gustafson of Henderson and Linda Rivera of Las Vegas, who have been sickened with contaminated food to let this critical issue be hijacked by petty politics.
“My hope is that Senator Coburn will reconsider his obstruction, and work with us to make sure that when it comes to food, parents have the peace of mind that all Americans deserve,” the Nevada Democrat adds.
Coburn says he objects to the legislation because he says it would add to the federal budget deficit.
The egg recall is just the latest scare related to bad food, following incidents of salmonella in peppers and peanut butter, E. coli in spinach, and more.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including virtually all food imports, but the agency is underfunded, overwhelmed, and operates under an obsolete, largely reactive 1938 law, reform supporters note.
The bill Republicans are blocking would gives the FDA a mandate to inspect facilities and prevent contamination. The bill would:
- Increase the inspections at all food facilities and requires annual inspections of high risk facilities.
- Require the food industry to develop plans that identify hazards and implement the right preventive measures.
- Enable the FDA to more effectively respond to an outbreak by giving the agency new authorities to order recalls, shut down tainted facilities, and access records.
A Washington consumer-watchdog organization is urging senators approve the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
“As too often happens with voluntary recalls, those eggs were already in grocery stores and kitchens across the country, and were on the breakfast table before consumers learned that they might be contaminated. This means more people could get sick before this recall is over,” Liz Hitchcock, public health advocate from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, says. “There’s something rotten when consumers get sick from unsafe food and food companies are in charge of their own voluntary recalls.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.