Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Speak Up For Food Safety Legislation, HR 2749

This text is taken from an email from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

First it was spinach.  Then tomatoes and peppers.  Then pet food, peanuts, even pistachios—all tainted with Salmonella, E. coli, or another contaminant.

And now it’s cookie dough.

Every two hours, one person in the U.S. dies from a preventable disease caused by the food they ate. Each year 76 million people suffer an episode of food-borne illness and 325,000 are hospitalized.  These numbers just touch the surface of failures in our food safety system.  Outbreak after outbreak has destroyed consumers’ confidence leaving families fearful that the food they eat may sicken them.
 
The food safety system must be modernized to build safety and accountability into the production of the food we buy.

 After several years of review, Congress is moving quickly on food safety legislation, but change won’t come without your help!  Special interests are lobbying hard to weaken the bill.

 The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) is the best hope for making America ‘s food safer.  Most people think that FDA inspects food plants monthly; in reality, plant inspections are as infrequent as once every 10 years.  This bill would require the FDA to conduct more frequent inspections of food processing facilities.  It would also require food companies to develop and manage food safety programs and give FDA the authority to order companies to recall potentially contaminated food. (Recalls are now voluntary.)

 We need people to speak up in support of this bill.  Opponents are dragging out false rumors and old charges made against other food safety bills to attack this legislation.  (See Action Alert on H.R. 875.)  The bottom line is they oppose the responsible safety and accountability measures in The Food Safety Enhancement Act and want to exempt themselves from food safety requirements and eliminate provisions – like the inspection frequencies – that would make them accountable for producing safer food products.  Please contact your member of Congress to support H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act without weakening special interest amendments.

Sincerely,

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest

And this is from the people who oppose it.

  1. Hi, I have read articles that state that this bill will affect small producers, those with roadside stands, bakers who bring their goods to growers market. I cannot approve a bill that forces that level of control on small growers. I can see the value of bringing higher safety levels to corporate processors.

    forrest Evans

  2. I am concerned about the bill’s (and FDA’s) affect on small farmers. I think that farmers who produce & sell locally should Not be federally regulated.

  3. Forrest, Mike, and Pete:

    I also am alarmed at the effect that this bill may have on small local producers.

    I fear that this bill would let the camel get it’s nose in the tent. My wife and I grow most of our own vegetables organically. I certainly do not want the government dictating how my food is grown.

    This bill may be coming up for a house vote any day!

    You can sign a petition to oppose it here:

    http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/petitions_new.htm

    Bill

    ALARMING PROVISIONS:

    1. HR 2749 would give FDA the power to order a quarantine of a geographic area, including “prohibiting or restricting the movement of food or of any vehicle being used or that has been used to transport or hold such food within the geographic area.” Under this provision, farmers markets and local food sources could be shut down, even if they are not the source of the contamination. The agency can halt all movement of all food in a geographic area.

    2. HR 2749 would empower FDA to make random warrantless
    searches of the business records of small farmers and local food producers, without any evidence whatsoever that there has been a violation. Even farmers selling direct to consumers would have to provide the federal government with records on where they buy supplies, how they raise their crops, and a list of customers.

    3. HR 2749 charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services with establishing a tracing system for food. Each “person who produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, or holds such food” would have to “maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food,” and “establish and maintain a system for tracing the food that is interoperable with the systems established and maintained by other such persons.” The bill does not explain how far the traceback will extend or how it will be done for multi-ingredient foods. With all these ambiguities, it’s far from clear how much it will cost either the farmers or the taxpayers.

    4. HR 2749 creates severe criminal and civil penalties, including prison terms of up to 10 years and/or fines of up to a total of $100,000 for individuals.

    5. HR 2749 would impose an annual registration fee of $500 on any “facility” that holds, processes, or manufactures food. Although “farms” are exempt, the agency has defined “farm” narrowly. And people making foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables, cheeses, or breads would be required to register and pay the fee, which could drive beginning and small producers out of business during difficult economic times.

    6. HR 2749 would empower FDA to regulate how crops are raised and harvested. It puts the federal government right on the farm, dictating to our farmers.

  4. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition issued an Action Alert yesterday targeted at sustainable ag advocates in states who have US Representatives on the House Agriculture Committee. The Action Alert is about this bad food safety bill that is on the fast track in congress that has a House Ag Committee hearing on the 16th. The bill proposes a one-size-fits-all apporoach to improving food safety as well as a mandatory annual $500 fee for producers (including many farms) to be able to sell food anywhere in the US. It’s crazy that small producers are being asked to pay in the same amount that a mega corporations would be paying in. That’s just the beginning of the bad things about this bill.

    Since the Action Alert is not on either the NSAC or the NOC websites, I’ve posted it on my website:
    http://www.thefutureisorganic.net/FoodSafetyAction.htm
    along with a longer comment by me.

    If this organization, Circle of Food, is really concerned about healthy, nutritious food, it should give a good listen to the voices of the small-scale farmer and food producer who are providing the answer to food safety concerns by revitalizing local food systems. HR 2749 as written will end that revitalization, put thousands of small-scale farmers and processors out of business, all without truly addressing the root causes of unsafe foods — namely, industrial, chemical-dependent, unsustainable farming, and food production.

    You really must withdraw your support for HR 2749, or, at the very least, demand that the bill be allowed to be amended, which currently it is not.

    There’s a lot of talk about empathy these days. Have some empathy for the small farmer. Oppose HR 2749!

    Chrys Ostrander
    07-14-2009

  5. July 15, 2009

    Dear Ms. Zoldan,

    Thank you for contacting me about the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749). I appreciate hearing from you.

    According to the Center for Disease Control, foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. This year, outbreaks of E.Coli in spinach and salmonella in peanut butter have highlighted the need for reform.

    I am concerned that some incorrect information about H.R. 2749 has been circulated. This bill does not seek to shut down small family farms or give the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) undefined regulatory power. H.R. 2749 simply aims to address the gaps in the FDA’s basic food safety authorities in order to prevent another foodborne outbreak, such as the peanut situation earlier this year.

    Specifically, this legislation aims to protect American consumers from tainted foods by granting the (FDA) the authority to do the following:

    o Create an up-to-date registry of all food facilities serving American consumers, including foreign facilities that import food to the U.S;

    o Prevent food safety problems before they occur by distributing and auditing food safety plan requirements;

    o Increase inspections of food facilities, with an emphasis on high-risk facilities

    o Enhance the FDA’s ability to trace the origin of tainted food in the event of an outbreak of foodbourne illness;

    o Provide strong, flexible enforcement tools, such as strengthened criminal penalties and fines, to minimize tainted items in the food supply; and

    o Create a corps of inspectors to monitor imported food as well as foreign facilities producing food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics for American consumers.

    As you may know, H.R. 2749 was introduced on June 17, 2009 and has been referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee. Should this bill come to the House floor for a vote, I will keep your thoughts in mind.

    I always appreciate hearing from constituents, like you, who are informed and interested in the important issues affecting Arizona and the nation. My job as your representative is to help you connect with federal agencies, access services and get your questions answered thoroughly. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if you require assistance.

    To receive regular e-mail updates on my work as your U.S. Representative, visit http://www.giffords.house.gov to opt-in to my e-newsletter. It allows me to keep Southern Arizonans , like you, informed about the most recent activities in the House of Representatives and upcoming public forums I am sponsoring in the district.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Gabrielle Giffords
    Member of Congress

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