Don’t let another national outbreak be the reason that a final vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act is had.  That’s why continued pressure on the powers that be is a good thing.  Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI) wrote the following letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) calling on her to stop blocking a vote on food safety legislation in the Senate. Dingell is the author of H.R. 2749, the “Food Safety Enhancement Act,” which passed the U.S. House overwhelmingly with bipartisan support almost a year ago.

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I am writing to express deep concern with the lack of progress being made in the United States Senate on critical food safety legislation. My concern stems from recent press accounts detailing the cause of delay on Senate consideration of S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. Recent press accounts, including a July 11 Washington Post article titled Advocates Run Ads Urging Senate to Pass Food Safety Bill, indicate the cause for delayed consideration is your insistence on adding controversial language to the bill that would ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in food and beverage containers. While I am sensitive to your goals and believe that your intentions are virtuous, I respectfully ask that you reconsider your current obstruction on this issue and find a suitable compromise that would allow prompt consideration of critically needed food safety legislation.

As you may know, I am the author of H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, comprehensive food safety legislation that will grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authorities necessary to ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply. The case for food safety legislation has been made–each year approximately 76 million illnesses occur, more than 300,000 persons are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from foodborne illness. The urgency for a legislative solution is renewed with each new outbreak of illness from bad food. While not a companion measure, S. 510 includes many of the same authorities included in my legislation. H.R. 2749 passed the House in November 2009 overwhelmingly, with bipartisan support. Both bills will make the greatest improvements to food and drug law since 1938 and will save the lives of thousands of Americans.

There has been much debate over the years on the safety of the use of BPA in food and beverage containers. The topic invokes passionate reactions on both ends of the spectrum. FDA, the regulatory agency with the scientific expertise to responsibly weigh the risks and benefits of the use of BPA, has expressed some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children. FDA is pursuing additional studies and is seeking public input and input from other expert agencies to provide greater clarity on potential health effects of exposure to BPA. I share their concern and worked with my colleagues in the House to include language in H.R. 2749 that reflects this concern.

I implore you to not allow the perfect be the enemy of the good. Time is running out. Our choices are becoming increasingly

clear, we can either find middle ground, or we can become obstinate in our views and fail to meet any of our goals. It would be calamitous if a bill to protect American consumers from unsafe food cannot become law this year because of controversy over a single point.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter, and for all you do on behalf of American consumers.

With every good wish,

John D. Dingell
Member of Congress