Food Safety and Nutrition Bills Casualties of 'Short Calendar' At This Point

If Senate can't pass reauthorization programs may be extended.

Published on: Jun 22, 2010

Time is not on the side of those who support two food policy bills in the Senate. One would strengthen the FDA's food safety authority the other is designed to fight child obesity. But despite bipartisan support the legislation may never reach the Senate floor because there's not much room on the Senate calendar and time is running out.

The Senate Ag Committee approved its bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs that expire Sept. 30 like the National School Lunch Program in March. The House Education and Labor Committee just introduced its bill June 10. According to Margo Wootan, Nutrition Policy Director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Congress will likely approve a simple extension of the programs if lawmakers can't finish a full reauthorization. But that might mean that proposed gains in funding, the establishment of higher nutrition standards and policy changes that would empower USDA to regulate foods in school vending machines would be lost.

Ag Chair Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and 51 other Senators sent Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a letter in May calling for floor action on the bill. Reid has included the nutrition bill and the food safety bill on his priority legislation list. But the food safety measure, which would give the FDA more regulatory power to police domestic and imported foods and has bipartisan support has no announced date for floor action. A spokesperson for Reid says they remain on a list of items that are possible for consideration in the coming weeks.