The House of Representatives faces a big problem in taking up the food safety bill passed by the Senate.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510, passed by a 73-to-25 vote in the Senate Nov. 30 and appeared poised for passage in the House and then approval by President Obama before the end of the year.

However, the effort to present that legislation to the House for approval in the lame duck session might be stopped on a procedural issue.

Because the Senate food safety bill included measures that would raise revenues from inspection activities and other methods, the bill’s prospects in the House are clouded. Tax provisions are supposed to originate in the House of Represenatives, so lawmakers may be prevented from passing the Senate’s food safety reform bill.

“The House is still contemplating where to go with this,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. “It is not clear what path they can go but it really seems they have hit a major roadblock regarding procedural issues,” he said.

Guenther said the ability of the House to pass the Senate food safety bill is likely in jeopardy.
He said a clear determination of what will happen with food safety reform legislation may not occur until the week of Dec. 6.

United Fresh would like the House to go into conference with the Senate to resolve the procedural technicality and what it sees as other problems with the bill. United Fresh opposes its current form, in large part because of non-risk based exemptions for smaller growers and food processors.

“The responsible thing is to go to conference to fix what needs to be fixed,” Guenther said.

Food safety bill in jeopardy