The Senate comes back into session this week, and food safety is expected to be high on its agenda. In November of 2009, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions unanimously approved S. 510, the “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009,” and the next step will be consideration by the full Senate.
Although the Committee members made several comments about addressing the concerns of small and sustainable farmers, S. 510 still imposes many burdensome and inappropriate requirements on local foods, without solving many of the real problems in the mainstream, centralized food system.
It’s critical that we increase our efforts to educate the Senators so that we can get amendments introduced to address the problems the bill would cause for small farms and food processors.
1.) Contact both of your U.S. Senators. You can find their contact information at www.senate.gov or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll-free 877-210-5351. Ask to speak with the staffer who handles food safety issues. Tell the staffer that you want the Senator to work for an amendment to:
a) Exempt farms that sell directly to consumers from the bill, AND
b) Exempt small-scale food processors from the “facility” provisions, including HACCP.
If you get their voice mail, leave the following message:
“Hi, my name is _____ and I live in ______. I’m very concerned that S.510, the FDA Modernization Act, imposes unfair and burdensome regulations on local food sources, which are very important to me. The Committee version of the bill does not address my concerns, and I urge the Senator to work on amendments to exempt small farms and small-scale food processors. Please call me back at ____________.”
More detailed talking points are below. Please take the extra time to engage the staffer in a conversation about why you care about local foods and why it’s so critical that the Senators amend the bill.
2.) Spread the word in your community! Download the flyer here.
3.) Stay tuned for the next alert! We will ask you to call again when the Senate is about to vote on S 510. BOTH of these calls are important – the call now educates the Senators on the issues, and the call before the vote lets them know how their constituents want them to vote at the critical moment.
- The bill applies to any farm or food producer, regardless of the size or scope of distribution. Small local farms and food processors are fundamentally different from huge, industrial food suppliers that ship food all over the country. Congress can and should address the problems with the industrial food supply without harming the local food systems that provide an alternative for concerned consumers!
- The major food-borne 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.
- FDA regulation of local food processors is unnecessary and burdensome. Federal regulations may be needed for industrial processors that get 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 sufficient for local food sources.
- Relying on HACCP will not make food safer and 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 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. Applying a HACCP system to small, local foods processors could drive them out of business, reducing consumers’ options to buy fresh, local foods.
- S. 510 puts FDA on the farm by calling 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.
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