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Update: Food Policy on Capitol Hill This Week

Updated with witness lists and Senate hearing details

It is going to be a busy week for food and health issues in the

Capital. President Obama is expected to announce the way forward for

health care reform and there are a number of food policy events on

Capitol Hill, including a briefing on antibiotics in agriculture, the

first congressional hearings on the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization,

and Senate lobby days for the pending FDA food safety reform bill. 

Here’s an updated guide to key food-related events on the Hill this week:

Tuesday

Briefing on Alternatives to Routine Antibiotic Use in Food Animal Production

cow-antibiotics-featured.jpgSen.

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and the Pew Campaign on Human Health and

Industrial Farming are hosting a briefing focusing on successful

business models for raising food animals without the routine use of

antibiotics. Feinstein is a lead sponsor of the Preservation of

Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), a bill that would ban

the routine, or nontherapeutic, use of antibiotics in food animal

production in an effort to curb antibiotic resistance.  

The

briefing, which will be held in the Dirksen Senate office building from

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be moderated by Stephen Jay, Ph.D., a

professor of medicine and public health at Indiana University School of

Medicine, and will feature presentations from several antibiotic-free

meat producers.  Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch; Linda Boardman,

president of Applegate Farms, an organic meat and cheese supplier for

Whole Foods; and Steve Ells, chairman and CEO of Chipotle Mexican

Grill, the largest purchaser of “naturally raised” meat in the U.S.,

are all on the panel.

According to Pew, up to 70 percent of

antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to healthy food animals on

industrial farms “to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded,

unsanitary conditions.”

Committeee Hearing: Improving Children’s Health: Strengthening Federal Child Nutrition Programs

The

House Education and Labor Committee is holding a hearing on

strengthening the federal nutrition and school meal problems though the

Child Nutrition Act reauthorization. According to the committee’s

statement, “Improving federal child nutrition programs is one of the

four pillars of First Lady Michelle Obama’s recently announced ‘Let’s

Move’ campaign to combat childhood obesity.”

Food safety

concerns are likely to be discussed during the authorization process,

especially in light of a slew of recent school lunch safety exposes in

USA Today and the New York Times revealed gaps in the current system.

It was rumored that Mrs. Obama might testify in the hearing, but those rumors have since been debunked by White House aides.

Dora R. Rivas, president of the School Nutrition Association, Carolyn L. Morrison, president of the National Child and Adult Care Food Program Forum, and Kiran Saluja, deputy director of Public Health Foundation Enterprises, Inc. will be among the witnesses. According to the committee, additional witnesses have yet to be announced. The hearing is in the Rayburn House Office Building at 2:30 p.m. A webcast of the hearing will be available on the

committee’s website.

(Sidenote: committee chairman Rep. George Miller (D-CA) is so excited about child nutrition, he made a YouTube video about his meeting with Mrs. Obama to discuss the issue.)

Thursday

Make Our Food Safe Coalition – Food Safety Action Day

The

Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS) is making another push for Senate

action on the pending FDA food safety bill. Final details have yet to

be released, but key members of the coalition, which is made up of

public health, consumer, and industry groups, said they are bringing 45

foodborne illness victims and family members from 24 states to meet

with Senators and urge action on S. 510, the FDA Food Safety

Modernization Act, a bill that would increase the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration’s mandate and authority to regulate 80 percent of the

food supply.

“The message we are delivering is two-fold: Act now

to get Senate leadership to put the bill on the floor for a vote and

oppose any amendment that could threaten the passage of this important

bipartisan legislation,” said a spokesperson for MOFS.

Wednesday the group will meet for dinner and the day of action will kick off Thursday at 8 a.m. 

As Food Safety News has reported a number of times, S. 510 has been stalled behind the health care reform gridlock in the Senate

for months after being unanimously voted out of committee in November.

Many of the staffers working on health care are the same ones charged

with working out the details on the food safety bills.

Committee Hearing: Childhood Obesity – Beginning the Dialogue on Reversing the Epidemic

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) is also holding a hearing on the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin; Joe Thompson, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity; Sandra Hassink, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Obesity Leadership Working Group; and Rashad Mendenhall, a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be testifying before the committee.

As White House food and agriculture blogger Obama Foodorama reported earlier this week, First Lady Michelle Obama will not be testifying at this hearing either.

The hearing is Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. A webast will be available on the HELP committee’s website.  

__

Of course, Food Safety News

will be covering the food action on the Hill. Stay tuned for coverage,

and follow us on Twitter at @foodsafetynews for live-tweeting.  

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    Thanks for the update of MOFS activities, Helena.
    If must be nice for them to have the funding of the Pew Charitable Trust to do so many things. We, small sustainable farmers, don’t have a “sugar daddy” to fund our efforts to be heard. Rather, we have to volunteer our time and money to try to make ourselves heard.
    A month ago, MOFS (i.e., Pew) held a private luncheon in Raleigh, NC for 35 – 40 people from public health oriented non-profits. Its purpose was to rally support S 510. Fortunately, one of the non-profits invited gave its ticket to Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. because the non-profit knew that MOFS wasn’t telling the whole story.
    Sandra Eskins, whom you early described as “the director of the food safety campaign for The Pew Charitable Trusts” had to face an informed person who was able to highlight some of what Pew and MOFS regularly leave out about the reality of S 510.
    My guess is that Thursday MOFS will deliver a letter to demonstrate the support of public health oriented non-profits signed up at luncheons around the country similar to the one in Raleigh. It is sad that MOFS is unwilling to publicly debate the representatives of the local, healthy food movement about the actual specifics of the S 510. It is even sadder that public health oriented non-profits aren’t more carefully researching the impact the bill is sure to have.

  • Harry Hamil

    Thanks for the update of MOFS activities, Helena.
    If must be nice for them to have the funding of the Pew Charitable Trust to do so many things. We, small sustainable farmers, don’t have a “sugar daddy” to fund our efforts to be heard. Rather, we have to volunteer our time and money to try to make ourselves heard.
    A month ago, MOFS (i.e., Pew) held a private luncheon in Raleigh, NC for 35 – 40 people from public health oriented non-profits. Its purpose was to rally support S 510. Fortunately, one of the non-profits invited gave its ticket to Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. because the non-profit knew that MOFS wasn’t telling the whole story.
    Sandra Eskins, whom you early described as “the director of the food safety campaign for The Pew Charitable Trusts” had to face an informed person who was able to highlight some of what Pew and MOFS regularly leave out about the reality of S 510.
    My guess is that Thursday MOFS will deliver a letter to demonstrate the support of public health oriented non-profits signed up at luncheons around the country similar to the one in Raleigh. It is sad that MOFS is unwilling to publicly debate the representatives of the local, healthy food movement about the actual specifics of the S 510. It is even sadder that public health oriented non-profits aren’t more carefully researching the impact the bill is sure to have.