From: Sarah Alexander [mailto:[log in to unmask]] 
Sent: Thursday, March 12, 2009 12:34 PM

Food & Water Watch' s Statement on H.R. 875 and the Food Safety Bills


The dilemma of how to regulate food safety in a way that prevents
problems caused by industrialized agriculture but doesn't wipe out small
diversified farms is not new and is not easily solved.  And as almost
constant food safety problems reveal the dirty truth about the way much
of our food is produced, processed and distributed, it's a dilemma we
need to have serious discussion about.

Most consumers never thought they had to worry about peanut butter and
this latest food safety scandal has captured public attention for good
reason - a CEO who knowingly shipped contaminated food, a plant with
holes in the roof and serious pest problems, and years of state and
federal regulators failing to intervene. 

It's no surprise that Congress is under pressure to act and multiple
food safety bills have been introduced.

Two of the bills are about traceability for food (S.425 and H.R. 814).
These present real issues for small producers who could be forced to
bear the cost of expensive tracking technology and recordkeeping. 

The other bills address what FDA can do to regulate food.


A lot of attention has been focused on a bill introduced by Rep. Rosa
DeLauro (H.R. 875), the Food Safety Modernization Act.  And a lot of
what is being said about the bill is misleading. 

Here are a few things that H.R. 875 DOES do:

-It addresses the most critical flaw in the structure of FDA by
splitting it into 2 new agencies -one devoted to food safety and the
other devoted to drugs and medical devices.

-It increases inspection of food processing plants, basing the frequency
of inspection on the risk of the product being produced - but it does
NOT make plants pay any registration fees or user fees.

-It does extend food safety agency authority to food production on
farms, requiring farms to write a food safety plan and consider the
critical points on that farm where food safety problems are likely to

-It requires imported food to meet the same standards as food produced
in the U.S.

And just as importantly, here are a few things that H.R. 875 does NOT

-It does not cover foods regulated by the USDA (beef, pork, poultry,
lamb, catfish.)

-It does not establish a mandatory animal identification system.

-It does not regulate backyard gardens.

-It does not regulate seed.

-It does not call for new regulations for farmers markets or direct
marketing arrangements.  

-It does not apply to food that does not enter interstate commerce (food
that is sold across state lines).

-It does not mandate any specific type of traceability for FDA-regulated
foods (the bill does instruct a new food safety agency to improve
traceability of foods, but specifically says that recordkeeping can be
done electronically or on paper.)


Several of the things not found in the DeLauro can be found in other
bills - like H.R. 814, the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural
Contamination Everywhere Act, which calls for a mandatory animal
identification system, or H.R. 759, the Food And Drug Administration
Globalization Act, which overhauls the entire structure of FDA.  H.R.
759 is more likely to move through Congress than H.R. 875.   And H.R.
759 contains several provisions that could cause problems for small
farms and food processors:

-It extends traceability recordkeeping requirements that currently apply
only to food processors to farms and restaurants - and requires that
recordkeeping be done electronically.

-It calls for standard lot numbers to be used in food production.

-It requires food processing plants to pay a registration fee to FDA to
fund the agency's inspection efforts.

-It instructs FDA to establish production standards for fruits and
vegetables and to establish Good Agricultural Practices for produce.

There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends
to work for one size of agriculture - the largest industrialized
operations.  That's why it is important to let members of Congress know
how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and
sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market
producers different from agribusiness.  And the work doesn't stop there
- if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop
rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can't
afford to ignore.

But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety
system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a
food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the
authority to do much about it.

You can read the full text of any of these bills at <> 


Sarah Alexander

Senior Food Organizer

Food & Water Watch


1616 P St. NW Suite 300

Washington, DC  20036

[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> <> 


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