The Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) passed the Senate Nov. 30 with a bipartisan vote, fueling optimism among the bill’s supporters that the United States’ food system will be made significantly safer in the near future. But before anyone gets too deep into their celebrating (or bemoaning) of the passage of the S.510 in the Senate, it is important to realize that the bill has not been made law yet—and the road to President Obama’s desk is actually marred by what could be a significant pothole. 

The White House has indicated that Obama plans to approve the bill; but before he can do that, it must get through the House of Representatives before the end of the year. If it doesn’t, the whole process will need to begin again next year with the new Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate.

Initially, House Democrats said they would pass the Senate version of the food safety bill rather than try to reconcile it with the House’s companion legislation, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, which passed in July 2009. This would have ensured the bill would make it to Obama before the end of 2010.