Republicans in the U.S. House are threatening to withhold funding from the new Food Safety Modernization Act which President Obama signed into law this week. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat who championed the bill, says the legislation was the culmination of more than a year of bipartisan efforts to better protect American families against contaminated food.

Harkin says it’s ridiculous for House Republicans to try and kill it. “I just can’t understand why they would do that,” Harkin says. “Here’s a food safety bill supported by consumer groups, all the business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Consumer’s League. We had 73 votes in the Senate on this bill and they don’t want to fund it?”

 Harkin says the new law will give “the FDA the authority it needs and more importantly, the protections Americans deserve, knowing their food is safer.” He says it’s likely just a bluff by Republicans, who now control that chamber of Congress.

 Harkin says, “You’ve got a lot of new people coming into the House and they’re going to have to learn, they can go out and say these wild things, but they’re not going to implement them.”

Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, says thousands of people in Iowa get sick every year and people die every day nationwide due to food-borne illnesses. He says, “I’d hate to be a congressman running for re-election in a district where some people have gotten sick because of food poisoning, or God forbid, a young kid has died or been incapacitated for life and they didn’t fund the implementation of our new food safety bill that passed overwhelmingly.”

Harkin says food-borne disease outbreaks cost consumers and the industry about $152-billion a year.