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This Is It Guys! We Have a Food Safety Bill!

by: Jill Richardson

Wed May 27, 2009 at 16:37:50 PM PDT

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Henry Waxman has posted a draft of a brand new food safety bill - the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. It has not been introduced yet, but it will be soon. THIS is the bill that will ultimately move forward in the House. Here are some highlights:

  • Gives the FDA mandatory recall authority.

  • Requires all food producers to register with the FDA & pay a registration fee of $1000. It applies to both US and foreign producers and will fund the FDA's activities.

  • Requires companies to prepare food safety plans. The FDA can audit them and can specify minimum requirements.

  • The FDA is required to issue food safety regulations for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. This worries me A LOT. The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement provided "safety" guidelines for leafy greens that were absolutely idiotic and harmful. That is what we DON'T want to see happen here. However, that part will be hammered out by the FDA, not by Congress. It's just something to pay attention to for the future.

  • Inspections: High risk facilities must be inspected every 6-18 mos. Lower risk facilities can be inspected every 18 mos to 3 years. Warehouses must be inspected every 3-4 years.

  • Traceability:

    FDA would be required to issue regulations that require fod producers, manufacturers, processors, transporter, or holders to maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food and to link that history with the subsequent distribution history of the food; and to establish an interoperable record to ensure fast and efficient traceback (current law permits facilities to hold a record in any format - paper or electronic - making efficient tracing of foods difficult for FDA). Prior to issuing such regulations, FDA would be required to conduct a feasibility study, public meetings, and a pilot project.

    Farms that sell directly to consumers or restaurants are exempted from this provision.

  • The bill does NOT include: A requirement that companies test for pathogens and report positive results to the FDA. THIS SHOULD BE ADDED to the bill, if we're going to have a strong and effective bill

What can you do: Call your representative AND members of the Energy & Commerce Committee and ask them to sign onto this bill as co-sponsors. Also ask them to add an amendment requiring testing for pathogens and reporting of positive results.

How will small farmers be impacted? It's a 120-page bill and it was just announced today. So we're not 100% sure yet BUT we'll want to make sure that they are not negatively impacted as we read through the bill and then work with Congress as this bill is marked up in committee.

A list of Energy & Commerce members are listed below. Please look for any members within your state and call them.

Jill Richardson :: This Is It Guys! We Have a Food Safety Bill!
Henry A. Waxman, CA, Chair  
John D. Dingell, MI, Chair Emeritus  
Edward J. Markey, MA  
Rick Boucher, VA  
Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ  
Bart Gordon, TN  
Bobby L. Rush, IL  
Anna G. Eshoo, CA  
Bart Stupak, MI  
Eliot L. Engel, NY  
Gene Green, TX  
Diana DeGette, CO  
Lois Capps, CA  
Mike Doyle, PA  
Jane Harman, CA  
Jan Schakowsky, IL  
Charles A. Gonzalez, TX  
Jay Inslee, WA  
Tammy Baldwin, WI  
Mike Ross, AR  
Anthony D. Weiner, NY  
Jim Matheson, UT  
G.K. Butterfield, NC  
Charlie Melancon, LA  
John Barrow, GA  
Baron P. Hill, IN  
Doris O. Matsui, CA  
Donna M. Christensen, VI  
Kathy Castor, FL  
John P. Sarbanes, MD  
Christopher S. Murphy, CT  
Zachary T. Space, OH  
Jerry McNerney, CA  
Betty Sutton, OH  
Bruce L. Braley, IA  
Peter Welch, VT


Joe Barton, TX, Ranking Member
Ralph M. Hall, TX
Fred Upton, MI
Cliff Stearns, FL
Nathan Deal, GA
Ed Whitfield, KY
John Shimkus, IL
John B. Shadegg, AZ
Roy Blunt, MO
Steve Buyer, IN
George Radanovich, CA
Joseph R. Pitts, PA
Mary Bono Mack, CA
Greg Walden, OR
Lee Terry, NE
Mike Rogers, MI
Sue Wilkins Myrick, NC
John Sullivan, OK
Tim Murphy, PA
Michael C. Burgess, TX
Marsha Blackburn, TN
Phil Gingrey, GA
Steve Scalise, LA
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From the link... (4.00 / 3)
So it was HR 759 that ultimately (mostly) moved forward?

The draft is largely based on the food provisions of H.R. 759, the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2009, introduced in January by Reps. Dingell, Stupak, and Pallone.

yup, apparently so. nt (4.00 / 3)

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Regs for production and harvesting? (4.00 / 4)
And coming from the FDA?!  I'm going to, ahem, assume organic farmers can continue on as they have tighter regs anyway, but what would happen with our CSA farmers and such that don't register for organic cert?  

$1000 fee for Producers?? (4.00 / 5)
This needs an exemption for small farmers and CSA's and other small producers. What do we pay our taxes for, anyway?
Big Ag should pay $1,000,000 per company and small ag should pay nothing! Fund the rest from cutting support for our global empire.

I AGREE (4.00 / 4)
what DO we pay taxes for?? Although I don't mind the fees for large corporations. But I think small businesses are so much in the interest of the American people that it makes sense to comp them to cost of inspection to incubate their businesses.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
This is what us folks in the software biz (4.00 / 6)
like to call a barrier to entry. If I were to start a little cottage industry making artisan cheeses or selling herbs or something, $1000 would be a substantial sum of my start-up capital. It might even keep me out of the business. To Kraft or ADM or someone like that, $1000 is about a second's income.

I'm not opposed to the FDA being self-funding at least in part, but if so the funding should be on a sliding scale. Consider the FCC; I don't know what commercial broadcasters pay in license fees and the like, except that the FCC rakes in big bucks auctioning off spectrum space, but us radio hams don't pay anything for our licenses unless we're asking for something called a "vanity callsign," a special service that costs less than $15 for ten years. (We do pay a fee to take the licensing test, but that goes to the people doing the testing, not to the FCC, and again that's a pretty nominal fee.)

I have succumbed to the Twitter craze. @Omir55

[ Parent ]
Waxman is awesome (4.00 / 4)
I'm sure this bill isn't perfect, and we need to be vigilant, but man are we lucky Waxman dethroned John Dingell last November.

if you read the summary carefully (4.00 / 2)
you see that farmers directly selling to consumers or restraunts are exempt.

where it hurts is like myself selling honey to stores i get caught up in the $1000 fee and inspections, but my fruit operations i sell at farmers markets so I have no worries.  

I wonder if the farms selling direct (4.00 / 3)
to restaurants are exempt because the restaurants are so closely regulated, at least they are in Oregon. I'll bet that under this the farms selling through stores in systems like what Red Tomato has will have to pony up that fee as well. Or maybe not?

In the case of honey, do they consider that a processed product?

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
Testing is not an easy solution (4.00 / 4)
Having worked with organic baby food I can tell you that testing is not the be-all and end-all.

First there is the sampling methodology, then the testing limits, then there is the problem with false positives.

Pulling a sample is very complex, in that to take a statistically valid sample you need to know where the product came from and how it was grown, harvested, packed and processed.  Contamination can come from multiple sources so the system for sampling can be daunting.  This is why the GMO test are so tricky, if you pull a sample from a field, but did not sample from the section of the field that was contaminated by a passing thunder storm, then you can have several negative test, only to find GMO's in the final product.

When organic foods are tested for pesticides the limits are 5% of EPA tolerance levels. (5% represents the average drift contamination from a conventional farm)  However when testing for any contamination, GMO, BacT or pesticides, there is equipment that can now detect far beyond parts per billion.  If you want to find a problem, you can, if you test to the limits of the equipment.

Contamination can easily take place in the labs, happens all the time.  When we would get a positive test,  additional samples, from the same lot code, would be sent to two different labs.  If we got another positive the product would be rejected. If we had two negative test we would move forward with the ingredient.  

This brings us to the concept of false negatives.  Statistically we know they occur, but I don't know of anyone who sends random negative test out for retesting.  Which means that some contaminated products get through the system.

Testing cost around $1,000.00 per ingredient, these cost add up quickly.  One solution would be to institute the same random testing that is done by the Fed and States that test fresh produce on the retail shelf.  This is like closing the barn after the cow is out, but if companies know that their products are being tested, along with the FDA authority to seize contaminated products, the companies will be more careful.

There is a new system in place today, pushed by the food retailers that forces processors and producers to follow HACCP, GAP and other preventative programs designed to stop problems before they occur,which is the best approach. But the additional cost are born by the processors and producers who must still sell at lower cost to the retailers. Not a very sustainable system.

The major piece of this legislation the the government right to pull product involuntarily.   Look for the big meat packers to vehemently oppose this provision, since it will force them to slow down their processing lines to meet the new safety standards.  

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