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House approves food-safety bill, attached to $1T measure

by Joan Murphy | December 08, 2010
WASHINGTON — With the lame-duck session winding down, the House of Representatives passed food-safety legislation Dec. 8 attached to a must- pass federal government spending bill.

House Democrats had been scrambling to find a way to pass food-safety legislation to fix a procedural error discovered after the Nov. 30 Senate passing of S. 510, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act. The bill must now return to the Senate for another vote.

But by attaching it to a $1 trillion government spending bill for fiscal 2011, House Democrats upped the chances the bill may pass before Congress leaves town.

The continuing resolution did not pass by a 212-206 vote, however, without an attempt by some members to steer the bill to conference committee in an attempt to strip a controversial amendment that would allow small producers to be exempt from federal food-safety requirements.

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) called on members on the House floor to oppose the bill, saying there was still time to resolve differences in conference committee.

"For all of us who have worked long and hard to pass food-safety reform, this is a bittersweet moment, with a job only partially done," Robert Guenther, the United Fresh Produce Association's senior vice president, said in a Dec. 8 statement after the evening vote.

Mr. Guenther said that he feared the amendment that exempts small producers and processors “will come back to haunt the Congress, public health agencies, consumers and even those who thought they would benefit from food-safety exemptions.”

He added, “As we look ahead, we will continue to voice our strong support for uniform, risk-based food-safety standards, whether in the remaining days of this Congress or in the new Congress convening in January.”