The debate on food safety is heating up in Congress. Last Thursday, October 22, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on S. 510, the Senate version of the draconian House food safety bill (H.R. 2749).
While FDA claimed that the bill only covers food in interstate commerce, the language of the bill would impose sweeping regulations on all farms and food processors. Meanwhile, S. 510 does not address the problems of uninspected imported foods or the contamination from feedlots.
We think this bill is too bad to be fixed and should be defeated!
ACTION TO TAKE:
1. Contact both of your U.S. Senators and ask them to vote NO on S.B. 510 because it will harm local and sustainable foods without fixing the real problems in the mainstream industrial food system.
For contact information, go to www.congress.org or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
2. Also contact the Chair and Ranking Member of the HELP Committee:
Chairman Harkin, (p): 202-224-0767, (f): 202-224-5128
Senator Enzi, Ranking Member, (p): 202-224-6770
You will have the greatest impact by faxing a personal letter or visiting their district offices in-person. Next best is a phone call, followed by an email.
1. Although FDA stated that the bill only applies to food in interstate commerce, the language of the bill does not contain any such limitation. On its face, the bill applies to any farm or food producer, regardless of the size or scope of distribution. If the intent truly is to limit the bill to food that is crossing state lines, then it must be amended. And even then, the bill would still negatively impact small farmers and food processors who live near state lines and who cross state lines to reach local farmers markets and coops.
2. The major foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls have all been within the large, industrial food system. Small, local food producers have not contributed to the highly publicized outbreaks. Yet both the House and Senate bills subject the small, local food system to the same, broad federal regulatory oversight that would apply to the industrial food system. Increased regulations, record-keeping obligations, and the penalties and fees could destroy small businesses that bring food to local communities.
3. FDA regulation of local food processors is unnecessary and burdensome. Federal regulations may be needed for industrial processing that source raw ingredients from multiple locations (sometimes imported from other countries) and ship their products across the country, but federal regulation is overkill for small, local processors. Existing state and local public health laws are enough for local food sources.
4. Relying on HACCP will harm small processors. S. 510 applies a complex and burdensome Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to even the smallest local food processors. Although the concept of preventative controls is a good one, the federal agencies’ implementation of HACCP, with its requirements to develop and maintain extensive records, has already proven to be an overwhelming burden for a significant number of small, regional meat processors across the country. In the meat industry, HACCP has not eliminated the spread of E-coli and other pathogens and has resulted in fewer independent inspections of the large slaughter plants where these pathogens originate. At the same time, small, regional processors have been subject to sanctions due to paperwork violations that posed no health threat. While HACCP plans are suited for larger factories, applying a HACCP system to small, local foods processors could drive them out of business, reducing consumers’ options to buy fresh, local foods.
5. S. 510 puts FDA on the farm. S. 510 calls for FDA regulation of how farms grow and harvest produce. Given the agency’s track record, it is likely that the regulations will discriminate against small, organic, and diversified farms. The House version of the bill directs FDA to consider the impact of its rulemaking on small-scale and diversified farms, but there are no enforceable limits or protections for small diversified and organic farms from inappropriate and burdensome federal rules.
6. S 510 favors foreign farms and producers over domestic. Both S 510 and H.R. 2749 create incentives for retailers to import more food from other countries, both because the bills burden family farms and small business and because it will be practically impossible to hold foreign food facilities to the same standards and inspections. The bills will create a considerable competitive disadvantage for ALL U.S. agriculture and food production (see analysis at http://ftcldf.org/news/news-20Oct2009-2.html).