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Lawmakers Spar Over Holdup on Food Safety Bill

In response to media reports that Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) insistence on a controversial bisphenol-A (BPA) ban is holding up the pending food safety bill, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), a force behind the lower chamber’s version of the bill, sent a public letter yesterday to Feinstein, urging her to reconsider her “obstruction” on the issue.

us-mail-featured.jpg“It would be calamitous if a bill to protect American consumers from unsafe food cannot become law this year because of controversy over a single point,” wrote Dingell. “I implore you to not allow the perfect be the enemy of the good.” 

Dingell added that while he is “sensitive” to the senator’s concerns, he is respectfully asking the senator to “find a suitable compromise that would allow prompt consideration of critically needed food safety legislation.”

Feinstein quickly responded to the letter yesterday, saying she is not blocking the bill.

“I am surprised that, as a longtime legislator, you released a public letter based on inaccurate information before reaching out to me personally,” she said in a letter to Dingell, The Hill reported yesterday.

The senator said in the letter she does not have a hold on the bill and does not object to it coming to the floor for a vote.

In the letter, Feinstein said Senate leadership asked her to work with Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and ranking member Mike Enzi (R-WY) to arrive at a compromise on BPA. If the senators cannot come to an agreement, Feinstein says, she will “be happy to offer an amendment on the floor.”

Feinstein, and several consumer and health groups, view BPA as a critical public health issue, as the chemical has been linked to a slew of health problems, ranging from breast cancer to heart disease to neurological deficiencies. The FDA announced it has “some concern” about the chemical in January, but continues to review the growing body of scientific research on the issue.

Major industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who both currently support S. 510, have pledged to oppose the bill if a BPA ban is part of the final package. A ban would also draw new enemies, like plastics and chemical interest groups, to a bill that enjoys a broad coalition of support.

As Dingell noted in his letter yesterday, the window of opportunity for the Senate to act on the bill is closing with the August recess and a contentious midterm election cycle right around the corner.

“Time is running out,” Dingell warned in his letter. “Our choices are becoming increasingly clear, we can either find middle ground, or we can become obstinate in our views and fail to meet any of our goals.”

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    I find it ironic that Rep. Dingell has written Sen. Feinstein, “Our choices are becoming increasingly clear, we can either find middle ground, or we can become obstinate in our views and fail to meet any of our goals,” when that is exactly the way that he and the Make Our Food Safe coalition have responded to the concerns of the local, healthy food movement and small growers, packers, processors and distributors.
    As clearly shown by Pug’s Leap Farm’s estimate of a $50,000 annual cost for a goat cheese dairy in Sonoma County, CA to implement the Hazard Analysis Risk-based Preventive Control (HARPC) Plan required of ALL food facilities, the basic cost of implementation of certain requirements is way to high for small businesses.
    S 510 is industrial-size-only food safety regulation designed for a global food system NOT for the burgeoning local and small regional food systems. It “modernizes” the FDA to the late 20th century NOT the 21st century.
    Please note that despite crying for the application of good science to food safety, the advocates of S 510 and its formal food safety plan desire from farm to table, there is not a single study showing the efficacy of such regulation. Rather, one of the foremost authorities on food safety, William H. Sperber, PhD., has again published his concerns about this approach in the April/May 2010 issue of Food Safety Magazine, “Shifting the Emphasis from Product Testing to Process Testing” (http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/article.asp?id=3609&sub=sub1).
    The title of his 2002 paper, “HACCP does not work from farm to table” (http://www.net-lanna.info/food/Articles/11014080.pdf) tells it all.
    When is Food Safety News going to include this noted food safety scientists ideas in its coverage of food safety?

  • http://www.missionary-baptist.com Pastor Jim

    Dianne Feinstein, “I’m Voting To Fund Bush’s War” 9/4/07 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neYMpG1Fd78&feature=related

  • http://www.harvestmark.com Joseph Garcia

    Responding to Mr Hammil’s comment: Do you advocate that small(er) producers be exempt from HACCP and other food safety programs? If they only want to sell at farmer’s markets, I’d say fine…If they want to mass produce and market their products in retail supermarkets, then you MUST have a solid HAACP program in place. There are too many small producers who can create havoc in a market for other producers who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on GAP/GMP/HACCP/Food Safety programs.
    Small producers should not be exempt just because they say it will cost them too much to implement. The consumer must be protected from any producer (big or small) who does not have a culture of food safety at the very top of the organization.

  • Harry Hamil

    I find it ironic that Rep. Dingell has written Sen. Feinstein, “Our choices are becoming increasingly clear, we can either find middle ground, or we can become obstinate in our views and fail to meet any of our goals,” when that is exactly the way that he and the Make Our Food Safe coalition have responded to the concerns of the local, healthy food movement and small growers, packers, processors and distributors.
    As clearly shown by Pug’s Leap Farm’s estimate of a $50,000 annual cost for a goat cheese dairy in Sonoma County, CA to implement the Hazard Analysis Risk-based Preventive Control (HARPC) Plan required of ALL food facilities, the basic cost of implementation of certain requirements is way to high for small businesses.
    S 510 is industrial-size-only food safety regulation designed for a global food system NOT for the burgeoning local and small regional food systems. It “modernizes” the FDA to the late 20th century NOT the 21st century.
    Please note that despite crying for the application of good science to food safety, the advocates of S 510 and its formal food safety plan desire from farm to table, there is not a single study showing the efficacy of such regulation. Rather, one of the foremost authorities on food safety, William H. Sperber, PhD., has again published his concerns about this approach in the April/May 2010 issue of Food Safety Magazine, “Shifting the Emphasis from Product Testing to Process Testing” (http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/article.asp?id=3609&sub=sub1).
    The title of his 2002 paper, “HACCP does not work from farm to table” (http://www.net-lanna.info/food/Articles/11014080.pdf) tells it all.
    When is Food Safety News going to include this noted food safety scientists ideas in its coverage of food safety?

  • Doc Mudd

    Bring all producers who would introduce food into the supply chain into compliance with the sensible and moderate food safety measures outlined in S.510…all producers, without exception.
    Food poisoning bacteria do not grant exemptions or heed legislative amendments. Why should food consuming families compromise their safety to special interests? Pass S.510.

  • hhamil

    @Joseph Garcia,
    First, S 510 does not require HACCP plans. S 510 requires Hazard Analysis Risk-based Preventive Control (HARPC) plans. This is NOT just semantics. True HACCP cannot be applied to fresh food (including meat) because of the lack of “kill” steps.
    Second, the HARPC requirement in S 510 is IN ADDITION TO ALL EXISTING FOOD REGULATION. For example, the 100+ small food processors working through NC’s Blue Ridge Food Ventures (about 25 miles from here) already are working in a kitchen that complies with all Buncombe County, NC and US requirements including training and inspection. HARPC would be on top of that. What evidence is there that anything more is needed? In the 15 years I’ve been involved in the local, healthy food movement, I’ve never heard of an outbreak associated with a small processor that was complying with all existing requirements. What we have is enough for smaller entities.
    Third, what I advocate is scale appropriate regulation. The larger the scale, the greater is the probability of a problem and the greater the array of cost effective interventions. I advocate a threshold not an exemption.
    Fourth, I don’t know of any place in the country where “there are too many small producers who…create havoc in a market for other producers who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on GAP/GMP/HACCP/Food Safety programs.” I work in a region with lots of small producers and lots of substantial producers–particularly tomatoes, apples and peaches. Small and large get along fine.
    The opposite of what you say is true. In 2008, when the FDA screwed up the salmonella saintpaul outbreak, though it was impossible for any of our local tomatoes to have been involved as there were none on the market, our market was destroyed by the incompetence of the FDA. And then our market was flooded with tomatoes all the way from other regions of the country including from over 2000 miles away in CA. Grade 1 red slicers dropped to $5/25# box when the box itself cost $1.50! $3.50 to grow, harvest, pack and distribute the tomatoes wholesale.
    Fifth, big can always survive additional regulation because it can afford to lobby for the changes it needs plus it has the capital to hold on until things stabilize plus, as the industry consolidates, increasing prices gets easier. Small gets wiped out and, when we do, we lose everything because in agriculture almost all small growers risk everything. They commit hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and, over time, probably don’t make the minimum wage. In 15 years, I haven’t come close to earning that much a single time.
    And I could go on and on but I will end with one very simple idea. Name a big business that didn’t start small? Name a young person entering farming on his or her own who isn’t starting small?
    I’m 63 years old and I’m just 6 years older than the average farmer in this country. For the first time in history of the world, we have people voluntarily leaving cities to give agriculture a chance. These people already have the huge hurdle of not owning land (the only asset which is paid for with after tax money). Yet, now, in the false name of food safety, supported by foolish assertions like those of whoever “Doc Mudd” is and consciously mislead by groups by the Pew Charitable Trust, Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, our legislators are very close to crippling the local, healthy food movement and assuring the ascendancy of industrial agriculture.
    How sad.

  • Harry Hamil

    @Joseph Garcia,
    First, S 510 does not require HACCP plans. S 510 requires Hazard Analysis Risk-based Preventive Control (HARPC) plans. This is NOT just semantics. True HACCP cannot be applied to fresh food (including meat) because of the lack of “kill” steps.
    Second, the HARPC requirement in S 510 is IN ADDITION TO ALL EXISTING FOOD REGULATION. For example, the 100+ small food processors working through NC’s Blue Ridge Food Ventures (about 25 miles from here) already are working in a kitchen that complies with all Buncombe County, NC and US requirements including training and inspection. HARPC would be on top of that. What evidence is there that anything more is needed? In the 15 years I’ve been involved in the local, healthy food movement, I’ve never heard of an outbreak associated with a small processor that was complying with all existing requirements. What we have is enough for smaller entities.
    Third, what I advocate is scale appropriate regulation. The larger the scale, the greater is the probability of a problem and the greater the array of cost effective interventions. I advocate a threshold not an exemption.
    Fourth, I don’t know of any place in the country where “there are too many small producers who…create havoc in a market for other producers who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on GAP/GMP/HACCP/Food Safety programs.” I work in a region with lots of small producers and lots of substantial producers–particularly tomatoes, apples and peaches. Small and large get along fine.
    The opposite of what you say is true. In 2008, when the FDA screwed up the salmonella saintpaul outbreak, though it was impossible for any of our local tomatoes to have been involved as there were none on the market, our market was destroyed by the incompetence of the FDA. And then our market was flooded with tomatoes all the way from other regions of the country including from over 2000 miles away in CA. Grade 1 red slicers dropped to $5/25# box when the box itself cost $1.50! $3.50 to grow, harvest, pack and distribute the tomatoes wholesale.
    Fifth, big can always survive additional regulation because it can afford to lobby for the changes it needs plus it has the capital to hold on until things stabilize plus, as the industry consolidates, increasing prices gets easier. Small gets wiped out and, when we do, we lose everything because in agriculture almost all small growers risk everything. They commit hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets and, over time, probably don’t make the minimum wage. In 15 years, I haven’t come close to earning that much a single time.
    And I could go on and on but I will end with one very simple idea. Name a big business that didn’t start small? Name a young person entering farming on his or her own who isn’t starting small?
    I’m 63 years old and I’m just 6 years older than the average farmer in this country. For the first time in history of the world, we have people voluntarily leaving cities to give agriculture a chance. These people already have the huge hurdle of not owning land (the only asset which is paid for with after tax money). Yet, now, in the false name of food safety, supported by foolish assertions like those of whoever “Doc Mudd” is and consciously mislead by groups by the Pew Charitable Trust, Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, our legislators are very close to crippling the local, healthy food movement and assuring the ascendancy of industrial agriculture.
    How sad.

  • Doc Mudd

    After two years, Harry, you’re still smarting over commissions lost on tomato sales? That’s what this is really all about for you? (because it obviously isn’t about consumer safety – you never mention that)
    Get over the tomatoes and move on. Perhaps you’re not cut out to be a farmer in the real world. Farming is nothing like selling insurance, is it.
    “How sad” ;>)

  • hhamil

    Once again, the person hiding behind the screen name, “Doc Mudd,” completely misses the point.
    I repeatedly bring up what happened in the salmonella saintpual fiasco of 2008 (which didn’t cost me a penny) because it illustrates clearly the following:
    1) The incompetence of the FDA (and similar government entities) regularly cost farmers lots of money;
    2) None of those who cause the problems are held accountable;
    3) The news media give it scant attention (e.g., Food Safety News has never written anything on it of which I’m aware.);
    4) Instead, the FDA cries that it needs even greater authority; thereby, successfully covering up their screw ups;
    5) Only Sen. Hagan (D-NC) showed any public concern for this issue during the mark up of S 510; and,
    6) The injured farmers have no means of obtaining restitution and can’t even get their complaints aired.
    So, why does “Doc Mudd” change the subject? Because to discuss the issue would reveal the worthlessness of her/his/its arguments.

  • Harry Hamil

    Once again, the person hiding behind the screen name, “Doc Mudd,” completely misses the point.
    I repeatedly bring up what happened in the salmonella saintpual fiasco of 2008 (which didn’t cost me a penny) because it illustrates clearly the following:
    1) The incompetence of the FDA (and similar government entities) regularly cost farmers lots of money;
    2) None of those who cause the problems are held accountable;
    3) The news media give it scant attention (e.g., Food Safety News has never written anything on it of which I’m aware.);
    4) Instead, the FDA cries that it needs even greater authority; thereby, successfully covering up their screw ups;
    5) Only Sen. Hagan (D-NC) showed any public concern for this issue during the mark up of S 510; and,
    6) The injured farmers have no means of obtaining restitution and can’t even get their complaints aired.
    So, why does “Doc Mudd” change the subject? Because to discuss the issue would reveal the worthlessness of her/his/its arguments.

  • Doc Mudd

    Still no mention of consumer safety.
    We get it. Let it go.

  • hhamil

    Really, “Doc Mudd,” “Still no mention of consumer safety?” Then I guess you didn’t actually read my first post before commenting on it.
    Of course, your comment comes about a post which is entirely about the incompetence of the FDA and its impact on those of us who actually invest our lives and money growing, packing, processing, distributing and/or retailing food.
    The truth which the FDA and the supporters of S 510/HR 2749 continue to cover up is consistent incompetence of the FDA. Instead, they join in the FDA’s regular use of smoke screens to cover its incompetence and divert attention from that incompetence. They cover up the FDA talking out of both sides of its mouth about its authority. And, I ask, how many times can anyone name where the FDA has admitted making an error?
    Considering the FDA’s abysmal record in food safety, I find it hard to believe that anyone supports making it much larger and giving astonishing new powers. Of course, S 510 and HR 2749 are a gold mine for the consultants, academics and third party inspectors who will benefit from its requirements.
    Unsurprisingly, the “Doc Mudds” of the world love to talk about consumer safety yet they never cite any evidence that any of their ideas actually improve food safety.
    And the “Doc Mudds” of the word do this despite the fact that their linch pin idea—HACCP plans from farm to table—has been shown to not work as they say it will by the man who is probably the foremost authority on HACCP in the world–William H. Sperber–gave a presentation in December 2002 at the 5th International Food Safety and HACCP Symposium entitled “HACCP does not work from farm to table” (http://www.net-lanna.info/food/Articles/11014080.pdf) which is cited in the first comment.
    As Dr. Sperber is the Global Food Safety Ambassador for Cargill, he certainly didn’t come from the local, healthy food movement.
    As for letting it go, “Doc Mudd,” there’s no chance I will because my wife and I put our money and time where our mouth is: local, healthy food. And we won’t allow whoever is masquerading as you to mislead Food Safety News’ readers without a response despite the fact that Food Safety News appears willing to do so.
    My writing this comment which probably won’t be read by 5 people demonstrates my determination.

  • Harry Hamil

    Really, “Doc Mudd,” “Still no mention of consumer safety?” Then I guess you didn’t actually read my first post before commenting on it.
    Of course, your comment comes about a post which is entirely about the incompetence of the FDA and its impact on those of us who actually invest our lives and money growing, packing, processing, distributing and/or retailing food.
    The truth which the FDA and the supporters of S 510/HR 2749 continue to cover up is consistent incompetence of the FDA. Instead, they join in the FDA’s regular use of smoke screens to cover its incompetence and divert attention from that incompetence. They cover up the FDA talking out of both sides of its mouth about its authority. And, I ask, how many times can anyone name where the FDA has admitted making an error?
    Considering the FDA’s abysmal record in food safety, I find it hard to believe that anyone supports making it much larger and giving astonishing new powers. Of course, S 510 and HR 2749 are a gold mine for the consultants, academics and third party inspectors who will benefit from its requirements.
    Unsurprisingly, the “Doc Mudds” of the world love to talk about consumer safety yet they never cite any evidence that any of their ideas actually improve food safety.
    And the “Doc Mudds” of the word do this despite the fact that their linch pin idea—HACCP plans from farm to table—has been shown to not work as they say it will by the man who is probably the foremost authority on HACCP in the world–William H. Sperber–gave a presentation in December 2002 at the 5th International Food Safety and HACCP Symposium entitled “HACCP does not work from farm to table” (http://www.net-lanna.info/food/Articles/11014080.pdf) which is cited in the first comment.
    As Dr. Sperber is the Global Food Safety Ambassador for Cargill, he certainly didn’t come from the local, healthy food movement.
    As for letting it go, “Doc Mudd,” there’s no chance I will because my wife and I put our money and time where our mouth is: local, healthy food. And we won’t allow whoever is masquerading as you to mislead Food Safety News’ readers without a response despite the fact that Food Safety News appears willing to do so.
    My writing this comment which probably won’t be read by 5 people demonstrates my determination.

  • http://gardenvarietyorganics.com D. Hinsley

    Right on, Mr. Hamil!! We all want safe food. The Dr Mudds only hear the name of the bill and it “sounds” great. They don’t see what/who is behind all this. If this law makes it so expensive and restrictive that the small producers can no longer remain in business, that leaves only the large conglomerate agribusinesses to feed everyone. When they have full control, Dr. Mudd will be wondering what happened and why is my food bill so much higher.
    Locally grown produce at the farmer’s market is fresher by far than supermarket produce. The local producer is more aware of any potential problem that might appear, and he/she knows their reputation/livelyhood depends on delivering a good product to market. Whereas, the large agribusinesses have hundreds of employees who not concerned with the quality of product they deliver as long as it sells. And this opens the door to more contamination of crops. These bills would restrict me from going to the local farmer’s market to sell my produce.