ARLINGTON, Va. — As Ric Jurgens steps in as the new chairman of Food Marketing Institute, based here, some of the key legislative and regulatory issues that the industry is concerned about have come to the forefront.
In a recent interview with SN, Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, FMI, pointed out that food safety has taken on new prominence in the wake of the recent series of product recalls.
“The whole issue of food safety is very important to us at FMI, and one that we are very engaged in as we go through the debate surrounding the legislative proposals that are pending,” she said. “Frankly, having gone through this series of recalls makes the debate a little more important, a little more volatile and a little more challenging than it might have been otherwise. People feel passionate about their positions on food safety legislation.
“It is something that is getting quite a bit of attention on Capitol Hill, and we think it will continue to get quite a bit of attention,” she added. “My hope is that at the end of the day we will come up with a legislative framework that will be a reasonable one, and that will be affordable — because in these economic times the last thing we need to do is make food more expensive — but that will also result in true enhancement to the safety of the food supply.”
In addition, Sarasin noted that FMI is also pressing efforts to prevent passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize by allowing employees to form unions on the basis of signing cards, rather than the current process of using a secret ballot.
“We are continuing to work it very hard because we think it is an important piece of legislation,” she said. “We want to ensure it does not become law because of the very negative effects of doing away with private ballots, which is un-American and impossible to fathom in our society.”
Although the increased Democratic majorities in Congress and the support of President Obama appeared to bring passage of EFCA closer to reality after November's elections, some key senators have backed off of their support.
Having a Democratic Congress, however, increases the opportunities for making progress on credit card interchange fee legislation, Sarasin pointed out.
“This seems to be a pretty good environment to get our points across, and we are having some success with the members of Congress who are in positions of authority within the committees of jurisdiction,” she said. “I don't know where we will end up on this, but we are making headway.”