(UPDATED COVERAGE, 10:10 a.m.) The Senate passed comprehensive food safety legislation this morning, 73 to 25, and the House may take up the Senate bill later this week.
The Senate passed a key cloture vote Nov. 29 by a margin of 69 to 26 that allowed leadership to limit debate and bring the bill to a final vote Nov. 30, said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.
âThe House has to make a decision what they are going to do with the bill,â Guenther said. âWe expect them to take up the Senate bill, possibly in the next few days.â
Twenty produce industry organizations including United Fresh opposed passage of S. 510 because of inclusion of language that exempted some small operations from some of the billâs food safety requirements.
Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public relations for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., said PMA was not in favor of the Senate bill because of the exemptions for small producers and processors that were not based on risk and science.
Even so, Means said the work of the Food and Drug Administration will be important to help refine the legislation and minimize the chance the exemptions will result in foodborne illnesses.
âThe legislation is important and sets the direction but it is FDA regulation that will set the rules,â she said.
Industry engagement with FDA will be critical as produce safety rules are introduced, she said.
Guenther expressed disappointment in what he called loopholes in the food safety legislation in a statement released by United Fresh.
âNow, when going to a supermarket, restaurant, farmers market or roadside stand, consumers will be faced with the question of whether the fruits and vegetables offered for sale adhere to basic food safety standards or not,â he said in the statement.
Guenther encouraged the House of Representatives to request a conference to reconcile differences between the House-passed food safety legislation and the Senate bill.
âThe House should give due diligence to conference these bills, not accept a flawed agreement that flies in the face of sound science,â he said in the statement.
Consumer groups indicated support for Senate passage on Nov. 30.