How did a deeply divided Congress decide to make food safety a priority? Although some legislators have been pushing for food safety reform for decades, a key ingredient in achieving this success was lawmakers putting aside their differences to craft bipartisan legislation and then keep working together to overcome a procedural error in the waning days of the congressional session.
Another key ingredient was the commitment of industry leaders and consumer groups to collaboratively address an issue that touches every American. Food manufacturers and food safety advocates were united in their view that industry needs a strong partner at FDA to ensure the safety of our food supply.
What seems like an improbable collaboration should serve as an example for policymakers as they struggle to find solutions to America’s biggest challenges. When much of official Washington gave up hope for the legislation, industry and advocates continued to work with our congressional champions to get the job done.
However, there are still challenges. The parties who played an instrumental role in turning food safety reform into a reality will still need to press for adequate funding for FDA’s new responsibilities. Without increased appropriations, there will not be enough resources to carry out this critical mandate to protect the health of the public.
Even so, the legislation should serve as a reminder that when committed people from differing perspectives are willing to listen to each other and bridge their differences, Washington can still work to help address important problems facing our nation.
It is proof that having many chefs can, at times, be a good thing.
Rebecca W. Rimel is president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Pamela G. Bailey is president CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.