Health care first, then food safety.

While on the surface that might sound backwards — if your food is safe, and you’re eating fresh produce, maybe you don’t need health care — we certainly can’t fault Congress for focusing on health care legislation this fall.

Committee leadership changes following the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., also could delay work on legislation of interest to the fresh produce industry.

But even with plenty of work awaiting them, when the House and Senate reconvene Sept. 8, food safety and child nutrition bills should not be too far from their minds.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 already has been passed by the House. While no bill is perfect, produce industry leaders have lauded the bill’s risk-based and commodity-specific approach.

Now it’s the Senate’s turn.

There are two nutrition-related bills we would like to see Congress pass this fall.

The first is reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. The second is passage of a bill, expected to be introduced by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., that would put more salad bars in schools and increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables served in school breakfast and lunch programs.

Ensuring that the fruits and vegetables we eat are safe, and that our children develop eating habits that will help them lead healthy lives, are crucial for the well-being of the produce industry and our country.

If extra expense for the nutrition bills is the issue, surely a multi trillion-dollar budget could trim elsewhere.

While health care is Congress’s top priority this fall, taking the time also to pass food safety and child nutrition bills would be a healthy dose of preventive care.

Did The Packer get it right? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.