With Washington buzzing about change, here is my sense of the food policy legislative agenda for the next two years.
Health Care Reform
A major component of the Health Care Reform debate will be Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which will likely include nutrition and obesity initiatives.
Bipartisan Senate support for a compromise FDA food safety bill includes mandatory preventative controls for all foods, new enforcement authorities (mandatory recall), new food import requirements, third party certification programs, and limited new fees on regulated industry. House leaders are likely to press for much higher fees on regulated industry.
The legislation’s main obstacle is distraction—the committees and staff responsible for food safety are now overwhelmed with health care reform.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Review of the laws authorizing the child nutrition programs, including School Lunch and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), is slated for 2009. Top issues are increasing funding for these programs and setting nutrition criteria for foods sold in schools. Focus on health care reform legislation may push this legislation off another year.
Bipartisan legislation in both chambers would require menu and menu board calorie labeling. Bills that would make the requirements nationally uniform have restaurant industry support. Action is expected this year or next.
Single Food Agency
Unfavorable reviews of the new Dept. of Homeland Security have dampened Congressional enthusiasm for a single food agency. An “interim step” proposal would remove food regulation from the FDA to a new agency in U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), but it is unlikely to happen this year.
Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC
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