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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Senate Saves Food Safety Bill

I just received this message from the Senate floor:

“Prior to adjourning, the Senate passed H.R.2751, as amended by the text of S. 510 (with Tester/Hagen Amendment) minus the offending blue slip provisions. The House now needs to vote to pass.  It then needs to be signed by the President.”

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Interestingly, I had been working the emails both Saturday and Sunday.  I had just sent this email when a moment later I got the above one:

I know it is an early Sunday evening in D.C. and you would much rather be home with your friends and/or families. I know, however, that you are likely still at work doing the people’s business. I would ask that you do one more of the many things that are still left to do – please encourage you bosses to put the Food Safety Bill back into play so we can see all of this hard work done.

You might know that I am a lawyer and I have represented many people sickened by foodborne illness. Here is one – http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/linda-riveras-deadly-dance-with-e-coli-o157h7/ – please look at the video. Linda is still hospitalized – since May 2009.

UPDATE:  I got this email this morning: “Btw – I gave Reid a note on Friday updating him on Linda and our mtg. I’m not saying that it worked the trick…but you can if you want. :)”  And, this email too:  “House vote Tuesday.”

  • Carl Custer

    Yea?
    Carl (listening for the Fat Lady) Custer

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Amazing! Wonderful and amazing!

  • Ann Quinn, consumer

    Wonderful news, Mr. Marler! Not perfect, but a start in the consumer’s favor and
    towards mandatory food recalls, which may save lives.

  • Steve Gilman

    Here’s the story from “The Hill” — with no mention of House action needed, however….
    Steve G
    In Sunday-evening surprise, Senate unanimously passes food safety bill
    By Alexander Bolton – 12/19/10 07:55 PM ET
    The Senate unexpectedly approved food safety legislation by unanimous consent Sunday evening, rescuing a bill that floated in limbo for weeks because of a clerical error.
    The Senate passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act on Nov. 30 by a vote of 73-25. But the bill was later invalidated by a technical objection because it was a revenue-raising measure that did not originate in the House — Senate staff had failed to substitute the food safety language into a House-originated bill.
    A coalition of groups supporting the bill sent a letter Sunday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) calling for action on food safety.
    “Our organizations are writing to support attaching S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, to the Senate’s proposed short-term continuing resolution,” the groups wrote. “Strong food-safety legislation will reduce the risk of contamination and provide FDA with the resources and authorities the agency needs to help make prevention the focus of our food safety strategies.”
    The American Public Health Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and other groups signed the letter.
    Democrats first attempted to attach the food safety bill to the two-and-a-half-month spending measure but Republicans balked because they wanted to keep that measure clean, according to Senate aides.
    Republicans, however, later agreed to pass it by unanimous consent.
    Reid announced he would send the legislation — this time properly attached to a House-originated measure — back to the lower chamber for final approval.
    “Our food safety system has not been updated in almost a century. Families in Nevada and across America should never have to worry about whether the food they put on their table is safe,” Reid said in a statement. “This is a common-sense issue with broad bipartisan support.
    “Tonight we unanimously passed a measure to improve on our current food safety system by giving the FDA the resources it needs to keep up with advances in food production and marketing, without unduly burdening farmers and food producers,” he said.
    The legislation is a high priority for Reid and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
    Reid’s staff earlier in the day had told a coalition of groups supporting the legislation that it had a chance of passing but the prospects appeared to dim as Sunday wore on. The swift approval by unanimous consent caught some aides and lobbyists working on it by surprise.
    Sen. Tom Coburn, the outspoken conservative Republican from Oklahoma, had been blocking the legislation. He lifted his objection at the final moment.

  • Keep your fingers crossed!!- Enactment of this bill will be a big plus for the health of all Americans!

  • Bill does need to be voted on again by the House. Vote scheduled for Tuesday.

  • Theresa Rivera Guillermo

    We are now one step closer and I too am keeping my fingers crossed! For the sake of my aunt, Linda Rivera and ALL victims of food born illnesses….the Senate needs to pass this bill!!! No family should ever have to go through what my family has gone through. If any family member of the Senate, had to go through even half of what my amazing aunt has had to go through, this would have been passed a long time ago! Do the right thing members of the House! Thank you Bill for all your support! Though I have yet to meet you, you are a strong part of our family and My Uncle Richard and Aunty Linda appreciate and care for you dearly!

  • Bix

    Holy cow. That is a surprise. Thanks for posting it.
    “Unanimous consent” by Republicans … Does that mean that those who voted against it on November 30 changed their mind? This has been a real lesson in politics for me.

  • Jeff Almer

    Absolutely stunning! You could knock me over with a feather right now. Congrats to the parties that made it happen in the Senate yesterday and thanks for your efforts once again last week Bill. Would love to find out the background on why and how Coburn dropped objections and how it went so smoothly by appearances.

  • Bill Anderson

    Preparing for total food fascism. All choice will be taken away from us. Corporate control of everything. All food will be GMO and laced with chemical toxins.
    Did you hear about this, Bill?
    http://www.thecompletepatient.com/journal/2010/12/20/whats-it-mean-for-a-suburban-mom-to-become-target-of-food-po.html
    This is food fascism.

  • Bill, can you tell me how you know all and that 100 Senators know nothing?

  • Minkpuppy

    I foresee FDA going through a lot of the same growing pains that FSIS did when HACCP was started on the meat inspection side of things. USDA was in the same boat with a lot of regulations and rules that were not based on any sort of science but rather traditional practices that weren’t necessarily producing a safe product.

    In order for this to really work, the attitudes of the FDA inspectors need to change and they need to be willing to change. I know of too many stories where FDA investigators have gone after specific individuals in companies purely out of spite or because they had a personal pet peeve about one of the processes being used in spite of the company showing that the process was effective at reducing pathogens. These flimsy civil suits against industry personnel waste taxpayer money and do not improve the safety of food one bit. A company should not be denied the right to use technology that has proven to be effective regardless of what a single FDA investigator feels about it or because they forgot to print out an article to include in their HACCP plan supporting documentation. It’s ridiculous.

    Spite has no place in food safety. FSIS is still learning how to make food safety a joint team venture between inspection personnel and industry some 15+ years after HACCP was initiated. I’ve found that there can be major differences between how different FSIS districts operate even though we’re all supposed to be following the same policies. We need to have every single district, frontline supervisor and inspector on the same page and performing our jobs in the same manner. Consistency reduces conflict and confusion. Also, working with industry instead of against it makes it easier to reach our mutual goals of safer food.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    I think that as the new procedures get rolled out that the FDA should use a website like SurveyMonkey to keep on the pulse of those producers trying to follow the new rules. This should be a two way street and be a win win for all. There should be no room for any collusion or bias of any kind. This new process should begin with a clean slate for the inspectors. In order for this new legislation to work it has to work for all parties involved — everyone working together towards the common goal of a safer food supply.
    To Jeff A: I heard that there was some mutual back scratching going on at the 11th hour. That is a very good thing. I hope Senator Coburn sees that it is better to cooperate and hopefully have his own back scratched some day then to be obstinate and get nowhere and no change.

  • Dog Doctor

    Bill A, yes S510 has passed, maybe it is time to run far away. The sky is truely falling Try North Korea since you like the word fascism so much. Speak out againist their leadership while you are there and find out what true fascism means and not imagery injustices.
    I read David’s blog, the mom in question was also reselling uninspected meat afraid that is USDA’s job not FDA inspection that law goes back to 1909, and Lewis Sinclair’s “Jungle” which requires are meat to be inspected that is sold to be inspected by USDA or the state agency before it is considered wholesome. As usual, you and David are very selective about your facts and what your report.
    Unlike Bill Marler, who lets everyone speak their mind even you Bill A with your limited understanding of the world. Everyone speaking is called democracy not fascism, you might want to point that out to David G. and his raw milk “echo chamber”.
    so yes Bill A, S510 has passed so maybe you want to move to Europe since you talk about how great their milk and cheese products are or I suggest North Korea is a good choice

  • Teri Williams

    I am stunned.. This only goes to prove that our lawmakers CAN and WILL move swiftly when they choose. I know this bill is not perfect, but we have to start somewhere. I’m betting the cattle prod you sent to remind them what this bill is all about (Linda Rivera’s & many others stories) moved the hold-outs to vote yes. My grateful thanks to you & your staff (what would any of us be without competent, dedicated staff); your tenacity & relentless support for all the victims you’ve so elequently represented.

    I haven’t spoken to Richard or Linnie since reading this…but I know in my heart there were tears of joy. It wouldn’t be about them, it would be about preventing this happening to anyone else. This is the best Christmas gift the Rivera’s could have received …save Linnie finally leaving the hospital and going home. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and yours.