Senator Coburn is wrong. The Senate needs to pass meaningful food safety legislation immediately, not keep it on the backburner through the lame duck session so that it can start from scratch again next term. He has raised legitimate questions of cost, but even his estimated costs of implementing S 510 (Food Safety Modernization Act) pale in comparison to the cost of not passing the legislation. S 510 won’t eradicate food contamination; but the effects of increased authority and resources for FDA, if implemented now, will cause an immediate and significant reduction in the expenditure of both public and private funds related to the annual costs of foodborne disease.
Yesterday, Senator Coburn introduced his own version of new food safety legislation, called the "Ensuring Greater Food Safety Act of 2010." The bill is one page long, and it’s purpose is basically to demand that the FDA and USDA get along, communicate, and improve food safety.
This is a brilliant plan. Why has nobody thought of it before? While we’re at it, why don’t we just tell Congress to fix the deficit, Kim Jong Il to not become a nuclear power, and BP to be a better environmental citizen? Call it the blind faith based approach.
Here is Coburn’s plan, from his website:
Require FDA and USDA to immediately establish a comprehensive plan to share information and clarify existing efforts related to products and facilities in which the agencies have overlapping, joint, or similar authority;
Require FDA and USDA to issue a joint report to Congress summarizing the effectiveness of the new arrangement;
Task the Government Accountability Office with auditing the arrangement.
Done. No more. No additional resources; apparently no increased cost; and subservient to the vocal locavore movement who sees S 510 as the biggest threat to individual liberties since Stalin. My guess is that Coburn, and the republicans who have blocked S 510, really do see how idiotic it is to delay action on food safety any longer. But this is just a weak attempt at regaining political footing.