Food Modernization Act Has Shortcomings
FarmPlate Apr 13, 2010 News 0 comments
"The food safety system in the U.S. is underfunded, overwhelmed, and in desperate need of new powers to keep us safe as Americans," said Illinois senator Dick Durbin at a Chicago grocery store last weekend, according to ABC News. Durbin is the sponsor for the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) that will be debated by the full U.S. Senate as early as next week.
Durbin's assessment of the food system is unfortunately quite accurate. Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety's executive director, writes on the Huffington Post, "70 million Americans are sickened, 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from food-borne illness every year."
The Food Modernization Bill would expand the authority and power of the FDA and would increase the FDA's right to inspect food-processing facilities and suspend those that don't meet criteria. The bill would also require food processors to develop food-safety plans.
Though it is intended to protect Americans against contamination of foods, the bill has come under fire because of its "one-size-fits-all" approach to legislation. The food safety regulations set into action by the Food Modernization Bill would be the same for a small farmer as for a large factory farm. The high cost of meeting inspections could bankrupt small businesses and hinder the economic viability of small- to mid-scale food producers.
Hilde Steffey, FarmAid's Program Director, writes on FarmAid.org:
"There is the grave risk that new regulation will settle on a one-size-fits-all solution catered to industrial-scale production and processing. This kind of thinking will only encourage the growth of industrial systems, many of which are at the root of the problem. In the meantime, small and mid-sized family farmers, local and regional food systems, and diversified, sustainable and organic producers that by their very design are less susceptible to large-scale contamination and outbreak will be jeopardized."
The Food Modernization Act also would provide the same level of food safety standards to all types of food processing systems instead of prioritizing the regulation of the highest-risk food production practices.
Andrew Kimbrell points out in his Huffington Post op-ed that the Food Modernization Bill will continue to protect the interest of large corporations by prohibiting the FDA from "impeding, minimizing, or affecting" USDA authority on meat, poultry and eggs. Kimbrell articulates, "As a result, these bills contain the stupefying provision that no attempt by the FDA to combat E. coli and Salmonella will be allowed."
Much needed modifications to the Food Safety Modernization Act have been proposed. Senator Jon Tester of Montana has introduced an amendment to the bill that would exempt small-scale farmers and food producers from some of the regulations.
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow introduced another amendment to the bill, the Growing Safe Food Act, that would offer grants to small farmers to receive food-safety training and technical assistance to help them meet the new safety standards.
More National News
April 12: New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand proposed $1 billion in loans and grants to build more than 2,100 food stores nationwide to combat food deserts. Associated Press
April 7: The musician Moby released a book on food policy last week entitled Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety. The book has fifteen contributing authors, including Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society. Food Safety News
April 7: The Humane Society has reported findings of “extreme and unacceptable conditions” at factory egg farms in Iowa. KCCI Des Moines
April 11: A forum will be held in Burlington, Vermont, on April 17 to discuss geothermal heat and its benefits for sustainability. Burlington Free Press
April 10: The Vermont Senate approved a bill that will distribute $8.6 million in federal stimulus money to sustain and create jobs in Vermont. Burlington Free Press
April 8: Vermont Governor Jim Douglas announced $208,000 will be provided for Historic Preservation Barn Grants. VT Digger