H.R. 875 Update

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H.R. 875 Update

Post  Shep on Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:31 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 record keeping.

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 occur.

-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 do:

-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 record keeping 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 record keeping requirements that currently apply only to food processors to farms and restaurants – and requires that record keeping 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 http://thomas.loc.gov




___________________________
Sarah Alexander
Senior Food Organizer
Food & Water Watch


1616 P St. NW Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
salexander@fwwatch.org
www.foodandwaterwatch.org

Shep

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Re: H.R. 875 Update

Post  Charlene on Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:38 am

Here's the "concise" version I got from the family cow board:

From an email I received this morning from the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Please everyone take the time to write an email or make a phone call if you can.



"Many of you have been hearing about HR 875, a food safety bill that has been introduced in Congress. Although much of what has circulated the internet is not accurate, HR 875 does pose serious problems for sustainable farmers and their consumers. Unfortunately, there are already four other "food safety" bills that also pose serious problems: HR 814, HR 759, S 425, and S 510. HR 814 is essentially a mandatory NAIS bill, while the others focus on produce, processed foods and game under FDA jurisdiction.
Consumers who buy nutrient-dense foods from local, sustainable farmers can feel secure about the safety of their food. The same is not true for the majority who buy their food in grocery stores from mass-production industrialized operations. We understand the pressure that Congress faces to improve the safety of that mainstream system. But it is critical that the laws not interfere with the right to choose local foods or with our farmers' ability to raise safer, healthier foods!

Small sustainable farms are fundamentally different from factory farms, and should not be regulated the same way! All of the proposed food safety bills suffer from a "one-size-fits-all" approach. And even though the bills' sponsors might intend for them to apply only to food crossing state lines, the federal agencies regularly take a broader view of their jurisdiction. The FDA's and USDA's past actions clearly show that Congress must place strict limitations on these agencies, or they will impose burdensome and unfair regulations and enforcement actions on small farms.

We don't know which of these bills will move forward to committee hearings -- or perhaps another bill, not yet filed, will be the one to move forward. So we encourage everyone to send a clear message: Protect our farms from bad regulation!
TAKE ACTION

Call your U.S. Representative and Senators. If you do not know who represents you, you can find out at www.congress.org or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to speak to the staffer who handles food safety issues.
Talk with the staffer about why you support local foods. Tell them you oppose the five bills listed above. Ask that they support a food safety bill that focuses on the real threats to food safety, such as uninspected imports from China and lax inspections of massive slaughterhouses and other factory processing, and ask that any new laws explicitly exempt small farmers. Explain that this issue cannot be left to the agencies' discretion, and you want a clear focus on the broken factory farm system and not on small, sustainable farmers.

UPDATE - CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON NAIS
Last Wednesday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing on NAIS. The questions and comments of several of the Subcommittee members revealed that they view NAIS as a food safety program and critical for animal health in case of a "catastrophic outbreak." One member said, in essence, that the costs to farmers financially and in loss of privacy must be weighed against the "cost in human life" if NAIS isn't implemented.
Yet USDA continues to provide absolutely no scientific evidence to support the claim that NAIS will do anything at all to improve animal health or food safety! What NAIS will do is impose government surveillance and significant expense on animal owners for no real benefit to the public. The only ones who will benefit from NAIS are the meat packers and exporters, tag manufacturers, database managers and other large corporations.

TAKE ACTION #2
You can send written testimony to the Subcommittee before Friday, March 20. Send your testimony to the Hearing Clerk, Jamie Mitchell, at Jamie.Mitchell@mail.house.gov
Put "March 11 Hearing - Animal Identification Programs" in the subject line. Keep your comments clear, polite, and concise.

And be sure to send a copy to your Representative and Senators! A copy of your letter to the Subcommittee makes a great follow-up to the phone call we suggest above."

Charlene

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Re: H.R. 875 Update

Post  Charlene on Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:52 am

Hey, John, how can I link to what you quoted on HR 875 (and similar bills)? I want to link to it in my Facebook. I found Food and Water Watch's website and joined in facebook, but I can't find anything about any particular legislation. Can you send me the link to that exact page you quoted? Thanks!

--Charlene

Charlene

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