Act Now to Protect Food Producers from Over-broad Criminal Penalties
Last year, Senator Leahy introduced a bill to provide for criminal penalties for violations of the Food Safety Modernization Act. WAPF and others opposed the bill because it was extremely broad and vague, and it ultimately was not included in the Act.
Senator Leahy has now introduced a new bill to criminalize violations of the federal food safety laws. Although it is much narrower than last years bill, this years version still leaves FDA significant discretion to impose criminal penalties even if no one is actually harmed.
Specifically, S.216 would provide criminal penalties and up to 10 years of jail time for persons who knowingly and intentionally to defraud or mislead adulterate or misbrand food with conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury. While this may sound reasonable, the problem lies in how it could be applied. The bill doesnt define adulterated and misbranded foods, but refers to the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, which has extremely broad definitions for these terms. And, ultimately, the FDA will be empowered to decide what conduct constitutes a reckless disregard of a risk of serious bodily injury. This is the agency that considers drinking raw milk to be playing Russian Roulette with your health.
The FDA has repeatedly turned a blind eye to the problems at large industrial-scale plants, consistently placing the interests of Big Pharma and Big Food over the public interest. At the same time, the agency targets small-scale raw milk farmers, raw cheese producers, and natural health foods suppliers. Until and unless FDA closes the revolving door between it and industry and uses its existing powers responsibly, it should not be given additional power to criminalize producers.
S.216 was fast tracked through the Senate, which approved it last Thursday. It has now been sent to two Committees in the House of Representatives: Energy and Commerce and the Judiciary.
Call or write your Congressman and urge him or her to oppose S.216
To find out who represents you, go to www.house.gov or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll-free at 866-220-0044.
Dear Representative _____:
While I agree that food businesses that cause widespread illnesses and deaths should be severely punished, I oppose giving FDA additional power to impose criminal penalties because of problems with the agencys track record. FDA has chosen to use its existing enforcement authority to go after small-scale producers, while essentially giving a free ride to big businesses that have caused the major outbreaks. It has consistently placed the interests of big business over the public interest.
FDA should not be given additional powers until and unless it shows that it is using its existing powers responsibly and truly in the public interest. I ask you to oppose S.216.