Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

NC Farmers Take S. 510 Concerns to Consumers

Small, sustainable, and organic farmers in North Carolina are taking their fight against the pending food safety bill to the farmers market. In an action alert last week, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) urged farmers to share their concerns about the legislation, which they believe is a threat to the burgeoning local food movement, to farmers market shoppers across the state.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization act, or S. 510, would expand the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) authority to access records and recall contaminated food, and it requires all food facilities to implement a food safety plan. The House passed its version of the bill in July. The Senate version has been stalled behind health care reform, but many expect the upper chamber to take up the bill after Easter recess, the week of April 12th.

“Congress needs to hear from our communities that federal food safety legislation must protect healthy local food,” wrote Roland McReynolds, CFSA’s executive director in the email action alert. “To mobilize consumer support, we have organized a week of grassroots action at farmers markets across NC.”

Farmers markets and vendors will be sharing information and handouts on CFSA’s stance on the legislation at markets across North Carolina from April 3 to April 10.
 
The goal of the campaign is to “create a flood of calls asking NC’s US Senate delegation to support of specific changes to the bill that will protect farms and local food producers from devastating FDA regulation” before the Senate comes back from recess.

CFSA is advocating for the following changes:

-Establish USDA training programs for small farms and food entrepreneurs.  The Senate should include S 2758, the Growing Safe Food Act, in S 510, and fund programs to get critical food safety information into the hands of small food producers.

-Eliminate “pointless” traceability rules for farmer-marketed products.  Foods sold by farmers directly to consumers, restaurants and retailers should be exempt from bar-coding or other schemes.

-Focus on real animal risks, not wildlife and farm dogs.  FDA should use proven science to identify animal sources of pathogens and appropriate controls, instead of the current approach of treating all animals on farms as a food safety threat.

—-

Recent Food Safety News coverage of small farmer opposition to S.510:

Libertarian Farmers Lobby Against S.510 March 13, 2010

Should Small, Sustainble Farmers Fear S.510? February 24, 2010

NSAC Outlines Approach for Amending S.510 February 19, 2010

Another Call to Add Help for Farmers to S.510 February 1, 2010

© Food Safety News
  • CFSA and the rest of the sustainable ag community is fighting for an additional change, one that is probably more important than any of the others: It is vital that FDA be required to write different, more flexible rules for on-farm production, and for food processing activities by farms and small businesses. The standard government approach of giving these small businesses two or three extra years to comply is useless if the rules themselves are still written by, of and for big agribusiness. Small farms and food producers can be healthier and safer than industrial food if we support those businesses instead of punishing them with rules and systems that don’t apply to their operations. If we want local, healthy food systems to continue to thrive and generate jobs; if we want small farmers to be able to make a decent living; if we want families and communities to have access to healthy, local fresh produce, we must demand that FDA treat those local food system participants in a way that respects their capacity and potential. Unfortunately, the FDA’s record, from GAPs that favor monoculture to approving use of rBGH without labeling, is poor when it comes to protecting a truly healthy food supply. That is why consumers and small farmers must act now to fix S.510. Sen. Sander’s amendments on defining food facility risks, Sen. Bennet’s proposals on paperwork reduction for small businesses, and Sen. Tester’s amendment exempting businesses with revenues under $500,000 from FDA enforcement of new on-farm production standards and Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls are all excellent approaches to meeting the twin public goals of a healthier food supply and reduced incidence of pathogen contamination.

  • Most all contamination of meat products do NOT occur on the farm. The problems start at the slaughter houses and increase in potential problems from there. ANY living animal with a “gut or digestive system” has the POTENTIAL of passing disease on to anything that eats any part of that animal. It is the nature of a digestive gut system to ALWAYS have a potential of containing organisms that can cause consumers of that animal distress or death. Keeping the animals HEALTHY before slaughter is the first step but proper slaughter techniques and “down the line” carcass breakdown and even further down the line, trim mixing from many, many, many different animal sources is even MORE important. The large meat processing operations are the ones that need to be the most careful yet they are the ones pretty much “writing the rules” and until this stops and the real “contamination development” within the system is dealt with properly, contamination problems will continue. What is done these days in the huge, corporate slaughter/processing plant systems is the “problem waiting to happen” no matter what controls are in place. More smaller rather than few huge operations would go a long way in reducing the contamination problems and REAL, BETTER ANIMAL HEALTH (not the mass use of drugs to “fix” the problem, but by raising the animals in truly healthy ways, which is NOT being done in these operations today) buy the corporation operations would also be needed. With the 10’s to 100’a of thousands of animals in a confined/enclosed feeding to slaughter system, what is one to expect but to have disease and contamination problems. It doesn’t take much brain power to see where the problems are and to develop ways to fix them, it is just the “brains” involved can/do only look at the problem from a mega operation point of view and this is where the problem IS.

  • Doc Mudd

    Pass S.510 and enforce it for any producer, large or small, for-profit or non-profit, who aspires to introduce product into our food system at any level.
    .
    The hubris of some self-styled “small farmers and food entrepreneurs” is appalling; by resisting sensible food safety protocols, by claiming to know better than experienced scientists, by declaring their own products absolutely safe (without any documentation) while simultaneously bashing and frivolously condemning mainstream food as “unhealthy”, by assuming they are especially entitled to handle my family’s food any damned way they please and remain anonymous and unaccountable for the consequences.
    Some of these same vocal “small producers” are lobbying aggressively to supply food to schools, to our children – miniature food poisoning outbreaks of E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidia waiting to happen.
    .
    Preventive regulation like S.510 assures that, as consumers, the safety and traceability of our food is more than an afterthought by vocal coalitions of “small, sustainable and organic farmers” who, so far, voice much more concern for their own pocketbooks than for the safety and satisfaction of their customers. How ironic; overweening self interest has been a shopworn charge too often leveled against large modern commercial food producers! Now the truth outs!

  • CFSA and the rest of the sustainable ag community is fighting for an additional change, one that is probably more important than any of the others: It is vital that FDA be required to write different, more flexible rules for on-farm production, and for food processing activities by farms and small businesses. The standard government approach of giving these small businesses two or three extra years to comply is useless if the rules themselves are still written by, of and for big agribusiness. Small farms and food producers can be healthier and safer than industrial food if we support those businesses instead of punishing them with rules and systems that don’t apply to their operations. If we want local, healthy food systems to continue to thrive and generate jobs; if we want small farmers to be able to make a decent living; if we want families and communities to have access to healthy, local fresh produce, we must demand that FDA treat those local food system participants in a way that respects their capacity and potential. Unfortunately, the FDA’s record, from GAPs that favor monoculture to approving use of rBGH without labeling, is poor when it comes to protecting a truly healthy food supply. That is why consumers and small farmers must act now to fix S.510. Sen. Sander’s amendments on defining food facility risks, Sen. Bennet’s proposals on paperwork reduction for small businesses, and Sen. Tester’s amendment exempting businesses with revenues under $500,000 from FDA enforcement of new on-farm production standards and Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls are all excellent approaches to meeting the twin public goals of a healthier food supply and reduced incidence of pathogen contamination.

  • jdcitizen

    Sorry Doc Mudd but you are running down the wrong path here. Small farmers are not the problem when it comes to food safety. It IS the very large “systems” with workers who have nothing at stake but their pay check. They just do as told,, period. Small farmers have everything at risk if there is a problem, unlike ANYONE working for a large corporate operation who is just a cog in the huge industrial wheel. If you want to get your food from the mega operations, fine I am all for your choice of doing so. But DO NOT eliminate MY choice of dealing much more directly with the grower/operator from small operations. Big is just NOT better here and the increasing problems with our foods in this country is absolutely point in fact. I am not going to try to take your choice of where you get your food from, please don’t take MY CHOICE from me. From your statements you make it sound as though our foods will become safe thru more/greater government inspection and oversight. This absolutely has NOT been the case in recent history, in fact things have gotten worse as facilities get bigger, said large corporate holdings have much more power to “direct” government policies and oversight and our food safety has gotten worse and worse. The individual grower/farmer working on a smaller scale than the mega, corporate farms, has far greater knowledge of his particular operation and the “crops” he is growing than any corporation minion following orders from “someone” in the office above. The owner/operator, farmer has much more at stake than any hired corporation worker, and will for his/her own personal well being do things to assure his/her production processes are on track and in line so that he/she can be assured of staying in business. I would much prefer to know the owner of the, say, dairy, know him, his family, see his operation, even get to “know” some of the cows than buy a carton of milk containing a mixture of X number of dairies and bottled by some company that just does that, buy, mix, pasteurize and bottle milk. It is just this type of mega operation that needs oversight as well as the haulers and dairies back down the line that may need some sort of oversight. Not so the small guy who I deal with directly……

  • kimm

    Then, Doc Mudd….go ahead and feed your family the contaminated, chemcally based and genetically modified food that the darlings of Big Ag and the USDA produce. Be my guest. It must not bother you either, about the conditions the animals in these wonderful, USDA/government sanctoned faciities are kept in, or the chemicals/additives on or in the foods.
    Fine…Great….I prefer NOT to risk my health. So, I’ll continue to grow my own food, and what I don’t raise, buy from other locals, as I and my family have done for years and years. And I’ll continue WITHOUT goverment sticking their fat noses in where they don’t belong.

  • If you think the current GAP standards will produce safe food think again. They do not address reptiles…which are the biggest carrier of salmonella, they still allow the application of unfiltered surface water to be sprayed overhead on produce and have other loopholes big enough to drive a train through. Our small farm has everything to lose if we produce tainted food and send it to the market place. We also carry 2 million in product liability insurance…even though our gross sales level is under 150K. I resent Dr. Mudd’s statements. I have testified to the USDA and the FDA on these issues. Neither of these agencies are enforcing with any sort of professionalism the existing regs…why write more? Why put the costs on small farms? Restaurants don’t pay for inspections. Our local health inspectors can do the job. Give them the money do expand to cover farms as well as food manufacturing facilities on a local level. This bill is a farce. It is designed to raise money for the FDA…which should be fully supported by the taxpayer, not the farmer.

  • Doc Mudd

    @ Chris — Kudos to you for insuring your operation against liability to the tune of $2 million. The insurance premium doesn’t cost very much and it is an intelligent safeguard for anyone like yourself, who is selling to the public. With reasonable attention to detail and good planning you will never file a claim on it.
    .
    Your speculation that money will be raised for FDA by this proposed legislation is rather naive, however. See, you wouldn’t be subject to ‘re-inspection fees’ until you had failed a routine inspection, failed an inspection prompted by a consumer complaint or had one of your tainted products recalled from the market. In each of these instances, anyone (including you or I) should reasonably expect to shoulder the financial aftermath of introducing faulty product into the food system. You would probably be contacting your insurance company about this time, too, wouldn’t you? Thus the emphasis in S.510 on preventive practices (HAACP) to assure that you need never attract the dubious honor of a fee-based ‘re-inspection’. Heck, a straight-arrow trooper like you should sail right through any cost-free routine inspection with flying colors, right? ‘No worries, mate!’…right?
    .
    You are welcome to “resent” my studied observation of hubris (one is reminded of Rodney Dangerfield’s indignant quip – “I resemble that remark!”), even when you cannot truthfully refute it; that is your perogative. Please, however, do not disregard basic food safety practices when handling food product you intend to sell to my family. All of us paying customers expect you to be fully accountable for the cleanliness and wholesomenss of your product — that is the very least we expect when we hand our hard-earned money over to you. Senate bill S.510 only serves to bring our expectations as consumers into focus for all business owners that handle our food; large or small, genuinely conscientious or full of crap right up to their ears — all of ’em.