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Food Safety Bill Update

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congressThings can change very quickly on Capitol Hill. On the heels of last week’s triumph stopping the completely unacceptable Leahy bill, we have more news on the Senate Food Safety Bill (S. 510).

As you know, we do not think the Senate Food Safety bill will make food safer; quite the contrary. At least we have succeeded in removing the very worst parts of it.  Together we have worked to modify language that would have committed the US to harmonization of food and especially supplement rules with the rest of the world similar to those in Europe, where attempts are being made to regulate away natural health. Working with the natural health community, we also succeeded in winning inclusion of the Tester amendment with its protection of small farmers.
The latest development on the Senate Food Safety bill is that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has, by prior agreement with other senators, inserted some new language into the Manager’s Amendment package we told you about last Friday.
When he withdrew support for his own dreadful Dietary Supplement Safety Act (S. 3002) under pressure from your messages, Sen. McCain worked out an agreement with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) to include some of his language in the Food Safety bill, and this has been done in a new section of the Manager’s Amendment. Do not be alarmed, however! These inclusions are not a source of worry. The section in question calls for two things:

  • The DEA is to be notified whenever the FDA denies a New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) application because of suspected anabolic steroid in the ingredient. This is a good thing, because it will help maintain the integrity of the natural products community.
  • The FDA is to issue new NDI guidance. (The FDA was already in the process of drafting it, so there’s really no change there.)

Sen. McCain’s agreement with Sens. Hatch and Harkin called for a number of other provisions, such as FDA recall authority of adulterated or misbranded foods and supplements, but these provisions were already part of the Food Safety bill, so again, nothing was changed.
Rumors have been circulating on the Internet and elsewhere that McCain’s old bill may pass during the lame duck session, but this is absolutely not true. You may recall that McCain’s bill would have made all supplements illegal unless they were on a very short list, pre-approved by the FDA, and this is absolutely not going to happen in the Senate Food Safety bill, so this new section is not a victory in any respect for McCain.
In case you missed the news, we secured a stunning victory last Friday! The obscene ten-year jail sentences for food and supplement manufacturers who violate complicated FDA rules contained in the Leahy bill will not be part of the Senate Food Safety bill. This is thanks to all the phone calls, letters, and email messages that you sent to your senators.
Even better, Henry Waxman has agreed that the House will accept the Senate’s Food Safety bill in place of its own, which is far, far worse, and contained the ten-year jail terms. So this means that ten-year jail terms should not be in a final Food Safety bill.
In addition, Sen. Hatch worked with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to remove a section from the Leahy bill that specifically targeted supplements. The section made any lapse in a particular kind of filing to the FDA subject to the full ten-year jail term. We are grateful to Sens. Hatch and Leahy for working together to remove this provision. This change is important because, although the Leahy bill did not become part of the Food Safety bill, it could be brought up on its own or attached to another bill in the future.
Congress is out of session this week. A lot of discussions are occurring on Food Safety, and we are part of them. We’ll report back as soon as we have more news.

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