Late Wednesday the House of Representatives passed on a 212-206 vote, a continuing resolution to fund the government through September 2011. Attached to the bill was the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act, which would give the Food and Drug Administration more authority. The language of the food safety rider is nearly identical to the bill passed last week by the Senate. However that bill was deemed unconstitutional due to a fee included in it as any taxes or fees must originate in the House.
The controversial Tester-Hagan amendment, a provision added to the Senate bill to exempt small farms and producers under certain conditions, is part of the legislation going back to the Senate for consideration. It appears that the small farm exemptions will be a part of the legislation if it becomes law this year. United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther issued a statement expressing disappointment that the provision was included.
"The statutory enactment of non science-based exemptions would limit FDA's ability to assure consumers that all foods they purchase, whether at grocery stores, restaurants, farm markets, or elsewhere, have met the same food safety standards," Guenther said. "We fear that this profound error will come back to haunt the Congress, public health agencies, consumers and even those who thought they would benefit from food safety exemptions. While the food safety bill will do much good, it is highly regrettable that the House leadership failed to exercise its responsibility to engage with the Senate in a conference to fix these provisions."
According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate will take up the bill in the next day or two.