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Reply #4: More good info about HR. 875 and other House and Senate Food Bills [View All]

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Mulehead Donating Member (93 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-23-09 10:46 AM
Response to Original message
4. More good info about HR. 875 and other House and Senate Food Bills
Matha Goodsell posted the following to the COMFOOD blog (which is moderated by Tufts University), which is followed by an email from Stacy Miller, Exec. Director of the Farmers Market Coalition:


"Here's my response I've been sending out to those that ask:

Yes I've researched HR 845, but no, not all of what you're reading is true. Here's some research I've done on the food bills. I'm most concerned with Senate bill 510 and House bill 1332. Watch them very closely. The bills are very similar though not conferenced at this point. They are broad sweeping reform bills, just as vague as HR 875 and could be just as, if not more, detrimental to small scale farmers and processors. Unlike HR 875 which exempts some activities which fall under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products inspection Acts and specifically excludes in section 3.14 any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation, there are no such express exceptions in these other two bills. The record keeping, product testing and HACCP requirements (all electronically of course) would be, in my opinion, overwhelming for most small scale operations. Look what HACCP did to our slaughterhouses-- gone! Any bill that will require one-size rules must be watched intently. These two bills( S510 and HR 1332) have bi-partisan support so don't let them off your radar by any means. Read them for yourself.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-510
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-1332


In the meantime, here's my submission to the Broader View Weekly, a small hometown paper, I write for."


Food Safety Bills of 2009

By Martha Goodsell

Internet users are up in arms regarding House Bill 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act, but much of what is circulating over the network is hype and inflated fears. However, thats not to say that HR 875 is not a threat to both small scale and organic farmers and those consumers who support such farms. In its present form, it is a very real- though not a highly probable- threat. HR 875 is not the only food safety bill recently proposed following the peanut butter contamination. There are six other bills that must be monitored.

There are two federal agencies charged with food safety. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for wholesome meat and poultry under the guidelines of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the other hand, has the responsibility for oversight of manufactured food products, and all those products not under USDA jurisdiction. Unlike the USDA who inspects products and ensures Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) compliance in slaughterhouses and in meat and poultry product processing facilities, the FDA is charged with the annual inspection of manufacturing facilities. Only a few products monitored by the FDA are required to have and follow HACCP plans.

Thanks to Upton Sinclair, and his book The Jungle, the USDA oversight on meat and poultry is much stricter than for other food products currently. Many of these bills are looking to change that, by requiring food manufacturers to have and follow HACCP plans, which includes strict record keeping requirements. Unfortunately HACCP implementation poses a greater obstacle to small plants compared to larger facilities. Thus, the single greatest problem with all of these newly proposed food safety bills are that they are not designed with small and large operations in mind. Rather, they are written with a one-size-fits-all approach. Knowing that many small operations will chose to close their doors, rather than comply with testing, record keeping, and all sorts of other requirements, these bills indirectly interfere with the rights of individuals to choose their foods. This threat of losing small farms and thus ones food choice- is feeding the current hysteria.

To read more about the bills visit http://www.govtrack.us/congress/legislation.xpd. Please contact your Washington representatives to express your support or opposition to the bills. Lets take a look at whats pending:

HR 875 - The Food Safety Modernization Act, sponsored by Rosa Delauro (D- CT) (whose husband works for Monsanto) has 30 co-sponsors at this time. This bill splits the FDA into two units: one which would monitor food and the other to monitor medicinal drugs and medical devices. (The FDA is charged with monitoring both food and drugs so this is only a new approach, not a new duty.) The bill would increase the number - or frequency - of inspections. HR 875 would require HACCP plans. It would also require imports to meet US standards. (Currently as long as a foreign country has an equivalent inspection system, product is accepted with little or no further questions or testing.) HR 875 would establish a national traceability system that would require tracking the history, use, and location of an item of food. Section 3.13A specifically exempts those operations currently under USDA inspection under the FMIA or PPIA acts and section 3.14 exempts any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

S425 - Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act, sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has no co-sponsors. This senate bill would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for the establishment of a traceability system so that each article of food shipped in interstate commerce would require a full record keeping system. An audit system would provide for compliance. Premise registration would be mandatory. S425 amends the FMIA so that any person that has reason to believe that any carcass, part of a carcass, meat, or meat food product is inappropriately transported, stored, distributed, or otherwise mis-handled resulting in adulteration or misbranding shall serve notice to the secretary who shall then call on industry to withdraw the product. The PPIA and the Egg Product Inspection Act (EPIA) would be amended in the same fashion.

HR 814 - Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere Act, sponsored by Diana DeGette (D-CO) has five co-sponsors. HR 814 would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a traceability system for all stages of manufacturing, processing, packaging, and distribution of food. HR 814 would amend the FMIA by requiring identification and traceability for all cattle, sheep, swine, goats, and horses, mules, and other equines presented for slaughter. Without an identification number, farm records, and the ability to trace an animals movement, such an animal can not be presented for slaughter. The PPIA and the EPIA would be amended to establish similar provisions for poultry and poultry products and for eggs and egg products. It is interesting to note that nothing contained in HR 814 supports Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements.

HR 759- The Food And Drug Administration Globalization Act, sponsored by John Dingell (D- MI) with eight co-sponsors, would require every food facility that manufactures, processes, packs, transports, or holds food for consumption in the United States to develop and implement a HACCP and food safety plan. HR 759 would require that all food facilities use standard lot numbers and that all facilities including food processors, farms and restaurants, keep electronic records. Food facilities must earn an accreditation status. This bill instructs the FDA to establish production standards for fruits and vegetables and to establish Good Agricultural Practices for produce and requiring those that grow and sell fresh fruits and vegetables to have a HACCP plan. COOL would be required. Only certified laboratories could conduct sampling and testing of food to ensure compliance.

S 429 - Ending Agricultural Threats: Safeguarding America's Food for Everyone (EAT SAFE) Act of 2009, sponsored by Senator Robert Casey (D- PA) with only one co-sponsor, focuses on imported and smuggled foods. This bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish food safety and agroterrorism training programs. Notification of recalled food products would be provided to the public while notice of smuggled food products would be reported to the public and to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This bill amends the FMIA and the PPIA to establish civil penalties for failure to present imported meat and poultry products for inspection and requires the use of federally certified food safety labs for product testing. A food-borne illness education and outreach grant program would be established.

S 510 - A bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to the safety of the food supply sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) has 8 co-sponsors currently. This bill addresses the concerns of government to the use of or exposure to certain foods. If the Secretary of Agriculture believes that there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to an article of food will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals, each person who manufactures, processes, packs, distributes, receives, holds, or imports such article shall provide access to that food article and to all records relating to such article. HACCP and preventive controls would be required for all manufacturers, processors, packers, distributors, receivers, holders, or importers. Safety standards would be established for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. All premises would be required to be registered and pay annual inspection fees. The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture, would facilitate public-private partnerships to help unify and enhance the protection of the agriculture and food system of the United States; including the sharing of information and intelligence relating to agriculture and the food system. The three agencies would identify best practices and methods for improving the coordination among Federal, State, local, and private sector preparedness and response plans for agriculture and food defense and would recommend methods to protect the economy and the public health of the United States from the effects of animal or plant disease outbreaks, food contamination and natural disasters affecting agriculture and food.

HR 1332 - Safe FEAST Act of 2009, sponsored by Jim Costa (D-CA) with 19 cosponsors. This is very similar to the senate bill S 510. All food manufacturers, processes, packers, or those who hold food for sale would be required to be registered. If the Secretary determines that food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by a facility has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals, the Secretary may suspend the registration of the facility. In addition to having access to records and the product, the Secretary may direct the facility to order a recall. In addition to HACCP plans and record keeping requirements facilities would be required to: follow sanitation procedures, establish hygiene training, establish monitoring programs for environmental pathogen controls, implement an allergen control program, develop a recall contingency plan; follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs); and verify source suppliers. HR 1332 would encourage the building of domestic capacity through coordinated councils which would in part identify potential threats to the food supply and would establish surveillance systems through integrated networks.


----- Original Message -----
From: Melanie Cheng
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected] Cheng
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 8:31 PM
Subject: Re: Re: FWD: HR 875

Hi there,

Does anyone else have 2 cents on HR 875 and its "slipping through Congress soon"? My mind was somewhat at ease after reading Elizabeth's reply as well as a note from Stacy Miller to the Farmers Market Coalition list (pasted below).

But then I've been bombarded with emails asking what's up and with links to lots of sites that seem to make it sound like armageddon is coming if we don't act now....

I'd love to be able to point people to a reliable source that everything's going to be okay for now, assuming it will be. Maybe the OCA online petition is a good link to pass on? Your insights would be great!!

Thanks!!
Melanie

===

Thank you for your response to our letter. It's great to know that someone is as passionate as you are about the rights of small family farms.

I certainly share some of your concerns regarding how food safety regulations are implemented, but the growing concern about this issue means that we cannot take it lightly or will it away. Just this morning, President Obama pledged to improve food safety (NYT article here<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/us/politics/15address.html?hp>) so it is likely if not inevitable that anyone involved with producing food will see some changes in what they're required to do with regard to record keeping. This will be true regardless of whether FDA retains oversight of food safety or these responsibilities are given to a new agency. Are there unknowns with respect to how any congressional legislation may be implemented? Yes. Does it pay to be cautious? Yes. Do we as a community need to stay actively involved in order to prevent the worst case scenario? Absolutely.

I can assure you that many organizations, FMC among them, are following proposed changes (via HR 875, HR 814, S 425, & HR 759) closely and are dedicated to representing the interests of small family farms. There will be many opportunities (for us and for you) to advocate for science-based, scale-sensitive solutions, or even exemption based on what, where, and to whom you are selling. Another possibility is a voluntary certification administered by your state's cooperative extension or dept. of agriculture, which would provide technical assistance in helping you create and update a brief food safety plan that puts in writing the common-sense approaches that you are likely already taking to prevent contamination. At this point, of course, these scenarios are hypothetical. But I hope that you can share my cautious optimism that there are as yet myriad opportunities to help shape what is vaguely implied in any of these proposed acts into a reality which is maximally friendly to small-scale family farms selling locally. It is even possible that, if properly implemented, legislation would actually give a competitive advantage to farms like yours, which have smaller footprints and which more and more people in USDA and congress recognize as being
critical to safe, secure, vibrant food systems.

Working on your behalf and grateful for your support,

Stacy
Executive Director
Farmers Market Coalition
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