The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 passed out of Committee in the House today, without opposition. The full House is expected to vote on the bill before the July 4th recess.
According to an article in The Packer, the bill is receiving some lukewarm support -or at least, something less than all out resistance – from food industry lobbyists.
“Clearly the Democrats and Republicans worked together this past week to try to create something they both support,” said Tom Stenzel, president of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association. “A number of the changes we wanted to see were able to get in.”
I am usually bashing lobbying groups for the food industry here, and was tempted to laud their willingness to accept the Bill (even though they should be actively supporting it.)
Reading more quotes, though, its really more of the same. The lobbyists may recognize that increased inspection and traceback are actually good things, long term, for the industry. More likely they realize that after the parade of foodborne illness outbreaks, these changes are inevitable. And so, they worked to water down the Bill, decreasing the user fees charged to industry associated with inspections from the originally proposed $1,000 to $500. And they are not done:
“(Committee members) have shown a willingness to listen and create a system that works,” said Tom O’Brien, Washington, D.C.-based representative for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.
O’Brien said there is more work to do — notably in relation to user fees — but said the process has been remarkably collaborative so far.
In other words, lobbyists will work until it is the tax-payers are covering the cost of ensuring that the industry adopts long overdue changes and improvements in food safety.