By Carol McCracken (Post # 638)
The public will know for certain soon, but it’s possible that the Food and Drug Administration may be headed toward greatly expanding its food safety powers. The U.S. Senate earlier today voted 74-25 in favor of debating the Food Safety Modernization Act. In a telephone call to Senator Snowe’s office, it reported to MHN.com that the Senator has not “released her official position on the bill. Neither has Senator Collins. It will be posted on Snowe’s web page” in days to come.
According to a press release just received from “Sustainable Food News”, the legislation, S.510, had broad bipartisan support. It would require the FDA to mandate more regular processing plant safety inspections and greater government authority in food-recall cases.
There are a number of amendments which have yet to be debated. One such amendment comes from Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.). It seeks to “shield small-scale food producers from onerous and costly regulations.” Tester’s amendment would exempt producers who gross under $500,000 and who sell at least 50 percent directly to consumers or local retailers and restaurants from the new federal HACCP/HARCP requirements and produce safety standards. Sustainable food champions Michael Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, endorsed Tester’s amendment: “S.510 is the most important food safety legislation in a generation. The Tester amendment will make it even more effective, strengthening food safety rules while protecting small farmers and producers,” he said.
Following today’s vote, Sen. Saxby Chanmbliss (R-Ga.) said he had a letter from 30 national agriculture groups that said if the Tester amendment is included in the final legislation, they would withdraw support for it.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is urging the public to contact their US senators to tell them to protect small farms and food processors by voting for the Tester amendment and another called the Manager’s Amendment. OFRF said “both are essential for protecting local and regional food systems, an important new engine for economic growth in rural communities and for cultivating the supply of locally grown food.” The Manager’s Amendment provides for a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training for farmers, small processors and wholesalers. A measure proposed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) would not require small farmers to meet extensive traceability and recordkeeping if they sell food directly to consumers or to grocery stores and allows labeling that preserves the identity of the farm to satisfy traceability requirements.
Following telephone calls to both Senators Snowe and Collins, neither has released a statement on their positions on this Bill. Senator Collins DC phone number is (202) 224-2523 and Senator Snowe’s DC phone number is: (202) 224-5344.
“Sustainable Food News” is a daily, on-line organic food newsletter to the food industry published by Hill resident Dan McGovern. For more information on the publication, please call Dan at: (207) 749-5249.