Despite all the fear and yelling over the food safety legislation, it is pretty clear that the media and the public is interested in it. Here is a sample platter of yesterday’s and today’s news:
Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who represents victims of food-borne illness outbreaks, said that because of changing congressional priorities and a tilt toward Republicans, it’s now or never for food safety reforms.
“If they don’t find a way, you won’t see a food safety bill for a decade,” Marler said. “It’ll be toast.”
To circumvent the “blue slip” problem, the House will have to pass a new version of the legislation, probably one identical to the Senate measure, and send it to the Senate, according to Roll Call. But that could trigger a new round of procedural challenges by Coburn, which could take several days.
Another way to overcome the “blue slip” problem, said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based food safety attorney who has followed the legislation closely, might be a compromise bill that drops the Senate’s fees while keeping the Senate’s Tester amendment and the House’s $500 registration fee. The Tester amendment exempts small farms and food businesses from some of the new safety requirements.
“I think it’s likely the House will go along with the Tester amendment. But it’s doubtful if the Senate will go along with the $500 registration fee,” Marler told CIDRAP News.
If Congress doesn’t pass the legislation before it adjourns later this month, supporters will have to start over next year in the new Congress, in which Republicans will control the House and Democrats will have a smaller majority in the Senate.
Marler was pessimistic about the chances for broad food safety legislation in the new Congress. “Given the fact that there was no movement on food safety in the ’90s, when the Republicans had control of the House and Senate, or one of them, I can’t imagine that if the bill doesn’t pass this year, that we’ll see food safety anytime soon,” he said.
Bill Marler, the Seattle-based attorney representing a Pleasant Prairie woman sickened in Kenosha in June in a lawsuit, said of the bill: “It’s not everything I wanted. But it’s the best bill we can get at this time. . . . I think it will make a difference in driving the number of foodborne illnesses down.”
The Marler Blog. This is a blog that I dread seeing when it comes up in my RSS feed because I know that half the time I’m going to see a photo of a person extremely debilitated because of food poisoning or of a child that died from eating a bad hamburger. But, it’s those photos that Marler puts on his blog that remind me that this issue affects real people and could someday affect someone I love. Bill Marler is an attorney that fights for the rights of those made ill by food poisoning, and he’s very informed on the politics of it all. The link takes you to a list of his posts on S.510.
“The industry response was really unprecedented,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in food safety. Consumer confidence in food safety has been sinking, and some of the worst recalls and outbreaks of illness stemmed from smaller, lesser-known firms. Many food producers “realized they are only as strong as their weakest links,” Marler said.
Marler was more circumspect, possibly because he’s been disappointed before. “I am hopeful that with risk-based inspections by the FDA and a more focused surveillance by the CDC, we will see fewer foodborne illness outbreaks and fewer illnesses.”
“Hopeful,” like let’s cross our fingers and pray for the best?
Marler had blogged shortly after the bill passed, “From a pro legislation perspective, I am pleased that it has passed the Senate, but I wonder how it will be able to get through the House and to the President’s desk before year’s end. I am most heartened that passage was one of the most bi-partisan votes we have seen in a very long time. It is good to see R’s and D’s coming together to actually try and doing something good for the American people.”
Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in cases involving food-borne illness, said he thinks the measure will help safeguard consumers and should not result in significant price hikes.
“There is nothing in this bill that should raise prices for consumers, and if so it will be pennies,” he said. “Pennies is a good investment to try and make our food supply safer.”