Federal Food Safety Background

In December 2010, Congress passed a food safety bill that significantly expanded FDA’s authority, including mandatory recall and inspections. But the bill does not ensure that FDA will use its new authority responsibly, nor does it address the revolving door between the agency and industry, epitomized by Michael Taylor’s current position as FDA’s food czar following his work for Monsanto. Most importantly, the Act does not address the underlying causes of most foodborne illness, namely the industrialized agriculture production and processing systems. These fundamental flaws mean that the bill will most likely do very little to actually improve food safety.

The Tester-Hagan Amendment

FARFA is one of the leading organizations working to protect local food producers from unnecessary and burdensome regulations under the Act. We succeeded in passing the Tester-Hagan amendment, which exempts small-scale local producers from the new burdens of hazard analysis plans (HACCP-type plans) and produce safety standards.

Even with the amendment, the bill poses problems for the local foods movement because of the new regulations on medium-scale producers and FDA’s increased power to administratively detain food. But the amendment succeeded in carving out a sphere of protection for the most vulnerable small-scale businesses, keeping them alive to fight the next fight.

The Tester-Hagan amendment also sets an important precedent: local food producers selling directly to consumers are different, and should be regulated differently, from the mainstream conventional food system.

Next steps…

On January 4, 2013 FDA issues proposed regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act, and the agency is accepting public comments until November 15, 2013. FARFA has developed an initial analysis of the proposed regulations and sample comments, and we encourage everyone to take action.