Senator Tom Harkin says he’s frustrated an Oklahoma senator is blocking a vote on legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration more authority to inspect food processing facilities and recall tainted food.
Republican Tom Coburn says the bill doesn’t outline how the more aggressive regulation will be paid for and he questions whether the F.D.A. is capable of carrying out the new responsibilities.
“Here’s a bill that came out of our committee on a voice vote and Mr. Coburn is on our committee and he did not object to our bill coming out of committee,” Harkin says. “…It’s supported by industry. In fact, industry wants this bill. They want the protections of a good inspection system, which we don’t have now.”
The House passed the bill over a year. Harkin is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee which approved the legislation in January, but it has languished in the senate ever since. “This is not just some consumer protection bill,” Harkin says. “This is a protection, also, for the businesses in America that deal in food processing and it’s a shame that one person — one person — can stop it.”
The national recall involving eggs tainted with salmonella highlighted some of the loopholes in the current system. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, currently does not have the authority to order a recall, but must negotiate one with the producers involved.
“I really thought with this whole egg recall hitting everything all over the country right before (the senate) came back, I thought that would give us the impetus we need,” Harkin says. “And I think it did. I think that’s why everybody’s ready to move on it, except for Mr. Coburn.”
Harkin predicts the bill would pass with more than 90 “yes” votes if the senate took it up today.
Harkin made his comments this morning during a conference call with Iowa reporters: FoodSafetyBill 4:58 MP3