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Action Alert -- New Senate Bill Threatens Small Farmers

October 13, 2009 | 35,738 views

law, bill, senate, congress, S.510On July 29, 2009, the House of Representatives passed HR 2749, the Food Safety Modernization Act, and the next step in the process will be the Senate. 

Although it is not certain, the Senate will probably focus its food safety discussions on S. 510, sponsored by Senator Durbin of Illinois.  S. 510 is different from HR 2749, but it contains many of the same problems.

H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enforcement Act (FSEA), added over 130 pages to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act with a myriad of new requirements and penalties for violations. 

The Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund agrees that the industrial food safety system has serious flaws and needs to be fixed. The US has seen numerous outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by imported foods or domestic foods that were processed in huge facilities and shipped throughout the country.  Unfortunately, HR 2749 does not focus FDA’s efforts on these very real problems.  Instead, it creates a regulatory framework that will heavily burden the small farms and local food processors, the very people who provide a safe, healthy alternative to the industrial food supply.

S.510, they say, is more of the same, and needs to be defeated.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

It’s already too late to act on HR2749 as it was already passed by the House of Representatives on July 29th. (To read a summary of that bill, see this link. For the full version, click here.)

However, it’s not too late to stop this latest FDA power grab as it moves into the Senate to be voted on as bill S.510.

Introduced by Illinois’ state Senator Dick Durbin, S.510 will grant more power to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the US food supply, and no matter how well-intentioned it may appear on the surface, I have doubts about the FDA’s capability to improve our food quality.

 

And I’m not the only one.

 

Small farmers across the nation are voicing their opinions in online groups such as Facebook, stating the bill will cause serious damage to their businesses.

 

The law would require them to focus on FDA paperwork like animal registrations and multiple other filings, rather than raising healthy crops and animals, like they’ve always done. And if they fail to follow the red tape, they will be seriously penalized.

According to an article on GovernmentExecutive.com, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Council have said the $500 annual fees are too high for small processors.

In addition, it’s unclear who will pay for the FDA's increased level of regulation and inspection.

Summary of Senate Bill S.510

According to the summary on GovTrack.us, S.510:

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act - Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to expand the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary) to regulate food, including by authorizing the Secretary to suspend the registration of a food facility.

Requires each food facility to evaluate hazards and implement preventive controls.

Directs the Secretary to assess and collect fees related to:

(1) food facility reinspection;

(2) food recalls; and

(3) the voluntary qualified importer program.

Requires the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture to prepare the National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy.

Requires the Secretary to:

(1) identify preventive programs and practices to promote the safety and security of food;

(2) promulgate regulations on sanitary food transportation practices;

(3) develop a policy to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and early childhood education programs;

(4) allocate inspection resources based on the risk profile of food facilities or food;

(5) recognize bodies that accredit food testing laboratories; and

(6) improve the capacity of the Secretary to track and trace raw agricultural commodities.

Requires the Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to enhance foodborne illness surveillance systems.

Authorizes the Secretary to order an immediate cessation of distribution, or a recall, of food.

Requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist state, local, and tribal governments in preparing for, assessing, decontaminating, and recovering from an agriculture or food emergency.

Provides for:

(1) foreign supplier verification activities;

(2) a voluntary qualified importer program; and

(3) the inspection of foreign facilities registered to import food.

The Problems with Senate Bill S.510

Here’s a brief explanation of the various problems inherent in S.510 (the same problems which were also found in HR 2749), as written by Pete Kennedy, Esq., President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund :

Food safety problems lie with the industrial food processors and food imports, not with local producers.  FDA should not be given any additional regulatory power over the local food system than what the agency has at present.

S.510 calls for federal regulation of how farmers grow and harvest product.  Farmers selling food directly to local markets are inherently transparent and accountable to their customers, and there is no reason to impose these regulations on them. 

Based on FDA's track record, it is likely that such rules will also discriminate against diversified sustainable farms that produce animals and crops in complementary systems.

S.510 expands FDA's powers over food processors, regardless of their size, scale, or distribution.  FDA oversight of small, local food processors is overreaching and unnecessary. 

Small processors selling into local markets do not need federal oversight, unlike the large, industrial, multi-sourced supply chains that are the cause of most foodborne illnesses and food recalls. 

S.510 applies a complex Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to even the smallest local processors, imposing onerous paperwork and record-keeping on these small businesses. 

Applying a HACCP system to local foods facilities processing for local markets, as well as farmers making value-added products, could undermine and extinguish these emerging small businesses attempting to bring healthy local foods to American consumers. 

In fact, when HAACP was applied to the meat packing industry, it was instrumental in reducing the number of smaller regional and local meat packers, yet failed to increase the number of independent, objective inspectors in giant meat slaughtering and packing facilities.

Bottom line: One size does not fit all when considering food safety bills!

Local foods businesses are not the same as animal factories or mega-farms that sell products into industrial scale national and international markets, and should not be regulated the same way!

Act NOW!

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with bill S.510. For the full text click this link.

 

Then contact your state Senators TODAY, and let them know what you think.

 

Time is of the essence if we want to stop this bill, so please do not delay!

 

Time and again the FDA has shown that it is not acting in the best interest of your health and safety. They’ve been caught, and in some cases openly admitted, to rampant conflicts of interest within their organization. Needless to say, industry has won, again and again, at the expense of your safety – the exact opposite of what the FDA has been charged to do.

 

Do you really want the FDA in charge of regulating your food?

Do we really need another bureaucracy regulating small farmers into oblivion so that you have even less access to healthy, locally-grown foods?

 

 If you don’t know who your Senator is, please see this convenient list on Senate.gov showing the Senators for each state, and their contact information.

 


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