Senate Passes Food Safety Bill

The $1.4 billion food safety bill (S. 510) has passed the Senate 73-25. The bill could increase the government’s powers through more inspections of food processing facilities, as well as allowing the government to mandate food recalls. In addition, it would put stricter standards on imported foods and require FDA to create new produce safety regulations.

Many operators of smaller farms opposed the initial bill, saying the increased cost of running their operations due to the changes could put them out of business. Senate sponsors adjusted the bill with a small business provision, eliminating some of the fees and reducing the number of mandatory inspections.

Despite the bill’s bipartisan support, there still is a possibility it could die, due to the lack of time for debate between the Senate and the House of Representatives before the end of the year.

In its current form, the legislation would:

- Allow FDA to order a recall of tainted foods.

- Require larger food processors and manufacturers to register with FDA and create detailed food safety plans.

- Exempt farmers selling less than $500,000 each year that “directly market to consumers in a 275 mile areas.

- Require FDA to create new produce safety regulations for producers of the highest-risk fruits and vegetables.

- Establish stricter standards for imported food.

- Increase inspections of domestic and foreign food facilities, directing the most resources to those operations with the highest risk profiles.

To read the full story, click here.

The following is the response from United Fresh Produce Association senior vice president of public policy Robert Guenther:

“We are disappointed that the Senate continues to ignore the egregious loopholes allowed in this legislation that will erode consumer confidence in our nation’s food safety system. Now, when going to a supermarket, restaurant, farmers market or roadside stand, consumers will be faced with the question of whether the fruits and vegetables offered for sale adhere to basic food safety standards or not. Unfortunately, instead of adhering to a science- and risk-based approach that was consistently the foundation of the underlying bill, the Senate has chosen to include a provision that will exempt certain segments of the food industry based on the size of operation, geographic location and customer base. This provision creates a gaping hole in the ability of consumers to trust the safety of all foods in the commercial marketplace.

“As S. 510 moves to the House of Representatives, we strongly encourage the House leadership to request a conference to reconcile differences between the House-passed food safety legislation and the flawed Senate bill. The House bill makes no arbitrary exemptions from basic food safety standards. This principle is at risk of being discarded for temporary convenience to pass a bill, but it is a fundamental mistake that will come back to haunt consumers, the food industry and even those producers who think they are escaping from food safety requirements. 

“The House should give due diligence to conference these bills, not accept a flawed agreement that flies in the face of sound science.”

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28 comments on “Senate Passes Food Safety Bill

  1. With all due diligence Robert, you must have flies in your face because your reliance in the Federal Government to administer sound science is flawed. All American government agencies are the most inefficient means of administration on the face of this Earth. We have the Dept. of Homeland Security, do you feel more secure now than before? We have the Dept. of Energy, is your gasoline resource any more secure or less expensive? We have to quit depending on a Government agency to take care of us because we are to dumb to take care of ourselves.

  2. Without the exception, the small direct marketing segment of the food chain would cease to exist. All of the growers at the local markets where I sell are one man or husband and wife operations( many are retirees) that basically sell out of their large home gardens. Our niche is the people that want home garden taste and freshness. Big difference between us and the United Fresh people.

  3. I know there is a great deal of conversation regarding the food laws and putting smaller farmers on a tight rope. Well I am sorry Big or Small they need to be held accountable for there actions. If you provide any sort of food product they need to follow the guidelines. And as far as the inspection. Wow one time..And not only that they know when they are comming what kind of inspection is that? They should pop in from time to time when these farmers aren’t expecting it do You really think they follow the rules when no one is around. Just some things to think about. Nothing against farmers but we are providing food to people and they should feel safe.

  4. This is no more than a reward the guilty and punish to innocent bill. Monsanto and Big Ag are the problem with un-monitored health controls due to and hiring illegals not the small farmer. So who gets to be the new food czar? A former VP of Monsanto. We need to just enforce the laws already on the books. And if this country would learn to buy local from small organic or naturally grown farmers who take all precautions in what they grow we would all be much better off and healthier.

  5. Once again the farmers are getting all of the bad rep for food safety issues, yes everything starts there but the consumer should be responsible as well. By saying this I mean there needs to be more education on the consumer side, not all of the contamination happens at the farms! The issue for small farmers is with these inspections, and they are not just one time. The exemption for the small farms is solely for the direct to consumer sales and that is where the consumer gets to decide whether the farmer is reliable or not. This is not selling produce in mass to the grocery stores, they require GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification, I do not know of any grocery store or government entity that does not require this certification. The certification is every year and has to be done on each and every commodity sold. Another issue is that these farms are not entirely exempt, if they do have an issue they will be investigated. The only thing I would recommend is that instead of an exemption make it more feasible for the small grower to maintain these standards i.e.- cost share grants, etc. so they can maintain their farms. Food Safety is very important but pushing the small farms into extinction and solely depending on large industrial farms is not the way to go.

  6. Why does the government expect produce to come ready to eat out of the field or an egg fresh from a chickens backside to be pathogen free. The consumer or preparer needs to be educated on how to handle and prepare the food. Things that were once taught, but seem to be absent. Some states like Ohio include alcoholic beverages like wine as being a food hazard, when no pathogens can live in them. Some states like California exempt alcoholic beverages. So a number of exemptions is in order.

  7. Should not all food produced be held to the same standard? Why should small producers get special benefits just because they do not have enough business to justify what the rest of the farmers have to deal with. With that said, I understand their plight. Is not America’s food the safest in the world? Why is the government trying to regulate it more? I say, “Let the retailers determine what standards they want not the government”. Food is not produced in a factory, but on a farm so it should not be graded as a factory produced item.

  8. The problem with exempting small farms from following GAP is that if there is an outbreak caused by one of these small farms the media attention affects every producer of that commodity.
    The small farm will not be the one to spend the dollars to get the public trust back, it will be put on the back of the large commercial operations.
    The cost of following GAP is not nearly as costly as the economic damage to the industry from such an outbreak no matter how small. Let’s tell the truth, the small farm just doesn’t want to do the paperwork, because it is time consuming, not costly. The requirements of GAP are practices which should be implemented whether you are a small farm or large commercial operation. It is the ONLY way to assure as safe a product as possible!

  9. What I worry about is that these small farmers don’t have the money to make sure their products are safe. I especially worry about the organics that are grown in manure that has not been tested (almost totally small farmers.)

    On the other hand, all of the produce that I have heard of that has been contaminated has been processed (chopped, washed and repackaged.) My thought is that either a small problem becomes a huge one when it is spread to many more people or, more likely, the pathogen (possible already on the produce but possibly contaminated in the processing) is given an environment where it greatly multiplies.

  10. I am a small market farmer. In response to the 12/11/10 comment. It does not necessarily take much money to make sure our products are safe. It takes good sense, good practices, and good handling. Ask your mother, food safety is a matter of knowing how to handle food. As a farmer, I am constantly aware of the safety of the food that I produce for myself and my customers, or I will not have any more customers.

  11. It doesn’t matter if you are selling 10 boxes or 100,000 boxes of product, you should be held to the same level of accountability. Under the revised guidelines, a cabbage farmer can be exempt and sell in the neighborhood of 6 million orders of slaw at Kentucky Fried Chicken! That would be 100,000 boxes of $5.00 cabbage — 6 million meals. That $500,000 exemption should be more like $500. We qualify as a small farm, but have our GAP certification and are proud of the product we produce. The GAP process is a lot of work, but not impossible for a small to medium size family farm.

  12. That is why it is so important. Small or big all of us need to be held accountable for your food product. And we all need to be inspected more than once a year.! I dont like it either but we are supply food.

  13. Of course the industrial agribusiness growers want the same regulations applied to little guys. It would just “coincidentally” kill the Local Food movement and put their competitors out of business (heh, heh…oops). It’s like the Green Bay Packers demanding a “level playing field” in a match against a local Little League team. Fair, huh! Actually, the real problem is a combination of wildly unrealistic food safety expectations by consumers combined with egregiously irresponsible fear-mongering by the mass news media combined with lawyer-politicians’ mad delusion that every problem real or imagined can be cured by laws-regulations and an ever more power-intoxicated bureaucracy . So why don’t we address the real problems instead of cannibalizing the produce industry by having small and big growers attacking each other? Wise up guys and gals; we’re in this thing TOGETHER.

  14. With all due diligence Robert, you must have flies in your face because your reliance in the Federal Government to administer sound science is flawed. All American government agencies are the most inefficient means of administration on the face of this Earth. We have the Dept. of Homeland Security, do you feel more secure now than before? We have the Dept. of Energy, is your gasoline resource any more secure or less expensive? We have to quit depending on a Government agency to take care of us because we are to dumb to take care of ourselves.

  15. Without the exception, the small direct marketing segment of the food chain would cease to exist. All of the growers at the local markets where I sell are one man or husband and wife operations( many are retirees) that basically sell out of their large home gardens. Our niche is the people that want home garden taste and freshness. Big difference between us and the United Fresh people.

  16. I know there is a great deal of conversation regarding the food laws and putting smaller farmers on a tight rope. Well I am sorry Big or Small they need to be held accountable for there actions. If you provide any sort of food product they need to follow the guidelines. And as far as the inspection. Wow one time..And not only that they know when they are comming what kind of inspection is that? They should pop in from time to time when these farmers aren’t expecting it do You really think they follow the rules when no one is around. Just some things to think about. Nothing against farmers but we are providing food to people and they should feel safe.

  17. This is no more than a reward the guilty and punish to innocent bill. Monsanto and Big Ag are the problem with un-monitored health controls due to and hiring illegals not the small farmer. So who gets to be the new food czar? A former VP of Monsanto. We need to just enforce the laws already on the books. And if this country would learn to buy local from small organic or naturally grown farmers who take all precautions in what they grow we would all be much better off and healthier.

  18. Once again the farmers are getting all of the bad rep for food safety issues, yes everything starts there but the consumer should be responsible as well. By saying this I mean there needs to be more education on the consumer side, not all of the contamination happens at the farms! The issue for small farmers is with these inspections, and they are not just one time. The exemption for the small farms is solely for the direct to consumer sales and that is where the consumer gets to decide whether the farmer is reliable or not. This is not selling produce in mass to the grocery stores, they require GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification, I do not know of any grocery store or government entity that does not require this certification. The certification is every year and has to be done on each and every commodity sold. Another issue is that these farms are not entirely exempt, if they do have an issue they will be investigated. The only thing I would recommend is that instead of an exemption make it more feasible for the small grower to maintain these standards i.e.- cost share grants, etc. so they can maintain their farms. Food Safety is very important but pushing the small farms into extinction and solely depending on large industrial farms is not the way to go.

  19. Why does the government expect produce to come ready to eat out of the field or an egg fresh from a chickens backside to be pathogen free. The consumer or preparer needs to be educated on how to handle and prepare the food. Things that were once taught, but seem to be absent. Some states like Ohio include alcoholic beverages like wine as being a food hazard, when no pathogens can live in them. Some states like California exempt alcoholic beverages. So a number of exemptions is in order.

  20. Should not all food produced be held to the same standard? Why should small producers get special benefits just because they do not have enough business to justify what the rest of the farmers have to deal with. With that said, I understand their plight. Is not America’s food the safest in the world? Why is the government trying to regulate it more? I say, “Let the retailers determine what standards they want not the government”. Food is not produced in a factory, but on a farm so it should not be graded as a factory produced item.

  21. The problem with exempting small farms from following GAP is that if there is an outbreak caused by one of these small farms the media attention affects every producer of that commodity.
    The small farm will not be the one to spend the dollars to get the public trust back, it will be put on the back of the large commercial operations.
    The cost of following GAP is not nearly as costly as the economic damage to the industry from such an outbreak no matter how small. Let’s tell the truth, the small farm just doesn’t want to do the paperwork, because it is time consuming, not costly. The requirements of GAP are practices which should be implemented whether you are a small farm or large commercial operation. It is the ONLY way to assure as safe a product as possible!

  22. What I worry about is that these small farmers don’t have the money to make sure their products are safe. I especially worry about the organics that are grown in manure that has not been tested (almost totally small farmers.)

    On the other hand, all of the produce that I have heard of that has been contaminated has been processed (chopped, washed and repackaged.) My thought is that either a small problem becomes a huge one when it is spread to many more people or, more likely, the pathogen (possible already on the produce but possibly contaminated in the processing) is given an environment where it greatly multiplies.

  23. I am a small market farmer. In response to the 12/11/10 comment. It does not necessarily take much money to make sure our products are safe. It takes good sense, good practices, and good handling. Ask your mother, food safety is a matter of knowing how to handle food. As a farmer, I am constantly aware of the safety of the food that I produce for myself and my customers, or I will not have any more customers.

  24. It doesn’t matter if you are selling 10 boxes or 100,000 boxes of product, you should be held to the same level of accountability. Under the revised guidelines, a cabbage farmer can be exempt and sell in the neighborhood of 6 million orders of slaw at Kentucky Fried Chicken! That would be 100,000 boxes of $5.00 cabbage — 6 million meals. That $500,000 exemption should be more like $500. We qualify as a small farm, but have our GAP certification and are proud of the product we produce. The GAP process is a lot of work, but not impossible for a small to medium size family farm.

  25. That is why it is so important. Small or big all of us need to be held accountable for your food product. And we all need to be inspected more than once a year.! I dont like it either but we are supply food.

  26. Of course the industrial agribusiness growers want the same regulations applied to little guys. It would just “coincidentally” kill the Local Food movement and put their competitors out of business (heh, heh…oops). It’s like the Green Bay Packers demanding a “level playing field” in a match against a local Little League team. Fair, huh! Actually, the real problem is a combination of wildly unrealistic food safety expectations by consumers combined with egregiously irresponsible fear-mongering by the mass news media combined with lawyer-politicians’ mad delusion that every problem real or imagined can be cured by laws-regulations and an ever more power-intoxicated bureaucracy . So why don’t we address the real problems instead of cannibalizing the produce industry by having small and big growers attacking each other? Wise up guys and gals; we’re in this thing TOGETHER.

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