Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Schlosser: ‘We Need a Modern Food Safety System’

Author Eric Schlosser Films Action Alert for Food Safety Bill, As Timing in Senate Remains Uncertain

Consumers Union (CU) is adding some star power to their food safety advocacy efforts. Eric Schlosser, award-winning author of Fast Food Nation and co-producer of Oscar-nominated Food, Inc. recently filmed a video action alert for the group, calling on the Senate to pass a bill to overhaul the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) dilapidated food safety system.

The pending FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which would boost the agency’s authority and mandate, has been stalled in the Senate since it was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November. A slew of pressing legislative priorities–from health care to Wall Street reform–have left little time on the Senate floor.

The food safety bill continues to have broad bipartisan support, especially as small farmer concerns are ironed out. It is simply a matter of time.

schlosser-cu-iphone.jpgIn last week’s action alert, Schlosser and Consumers Union sent out a clear message: tell your Senators to make the food safety bill a priority.

In just under a week the alert has inspired over 12,000 emails, and likely a high volume of calls, to Capitol Hill.

The alert also caught the attention of Congressman John Dingell, who tweeted the link to his followers with an enthusiastic “Bravo!” Dingell is among the House members constantly hammering the Senate to move on the bill. The House passed a similar version last July with bipartisan support.

In the action alert, Schlosser points to the the oft-cited foodborne illness statistics. “Those numbers are way too high,” he said.

“The centralization and industrialization of our food system has made it very easy for dangerous pathogens to spread far and wide. That’s why we need a modern food safety system,” he says in the video. “We’ve seen what happens when we let Wall Street regulate itself, and when we let the oil industry regulate itself. It makes absolutely no sense to let the food industry continue regulating itself.”

Schlosser urged people to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and ask them to make the bill a priority for the next work period.

“I see why there are so many other issues–like saving the economy from collapse–that they’ve had to deal with, but this one seems like a no brainer,” Schlosser told Food Safety News in an interview. “It’s not a hot button political issue like abortion or gun control where there are passionate divisions and people on each side. There’s really nobody saying ‘I want MRSA in my pork’ or ‘I want E. coli in my ground beef.'”

“I think it’s tragic if these people in Washington are behind the curve, especially when the cost of being behind the curve is so high,” said Schlosser.

Food safety advocates are still optimistic the Senate could take up the bill in the next work period, before the month-long August recess. Senate staff tend to agree there is a possibility, but the timing, as it has for months, remains uncertain.

When the Senate returns from the Fourth of July recess the food safety bill will compete with a Supreme Court nomination, climate change, and jobless benefits for floor time.

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    Once again, Food Safety News has demonstrated its willingness to misrepresent the truth for political purposes.
    The statement, “The food safety bill continues to have broad bipartisan support, especially as small farmer concerns are ironed out. It is simply a matter of time.” is what supporters of S 510/HR 2749 want to be true rather than the truth. And FSN knows this but it continues to paint a rosy picture for S 510.
    As one of those who opposes the current version and supports the Tester-Hagan amendments, I know that small farmer concerns are NOT being ironed out. In fact, it is clear to me that the Make Our Food Safe coalition is not even negotiating in good faith.
    Also, FSN has failed to report the Asheville Citizen-Times’ repeated editorial support of the efforts of Sens. Tester and Hagan to amend S 510. It has failed to report the thank you celebrations for Sen. Hagan at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market in Black Mountain, NC and the Western Wake Farmers Markets in Cary, NC during which letters signed by over 600 customers and vendors thanked Sen. Hagan for her efforts.
    And the opposition is truly grassroots without the funding of misguided a “sugar Daddy” like the Pew Charitable Trust.
    Finally, Bill Marler’s blog “S 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act – Santa Doesn’t Exist and Neither Does Bipartisanship” (http://www.marlerblog.com/2010/06/articles/lawyer-oped/s-510-the-food-safety-modernization-act-santa-does-not-exist-and-neither-does-bipartisanship/)does NOT paint such a rosy picture.

  • Harry Hamil

    Once again, Food Safety News has demonstrated its willingness to misrepresent the truth for political purposes.
    The statement, “The food safety bill continues to have broad bipartisan support, especially as small farmer concerns are ironed out. It is simply a matter of time.” is what supporters of S 510/HR 2749 want to be true rather than the truth. And FSN knows this but it continues to paint a rosy picture for S 510.
    As one of those who opposes the current version and supports the Tester-Hagan amendments, I know that small farmer concerns are NOT being ironed out. In fact, it is clear to me that the Make Our Food Safe coalition is not even negotiating in good faith.
    Also, FSN has failed to report the Asheville Citizen-Times’ repeated editorial support of the efforts of Sens. Tester and Hagan to amend S 510. It has failed to report the thank you celebrations for Sen. Hagan at the Black Mountain Tailgate Market in Black Mountain, NC and the Western Wake Farmers Markets in Cary, NC during which letters signed by over 600 customers and vendors thanked Sen. Hagan for her efforts.
    And the opposition is truly grassroots without the funding of misguided a “sugar Daddy” like the Pew Charitable Trust.
    Finally, Bill Marler’s blog “S 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act – Santa Doesn’t Exist and Neither Does Bipartisanship” (http://www.marlerblog.com/2010/06/articles/lawyer-oped/s-510-the-food-safety-modernization-act-santa-does-not-exist-and-neither-does-bipartisanship/)does NOT paint such a rosy picture.

  • dangermaus

    Given the extremely biased, fear-centric way that FSMA is being pushed (I usually see the tactic of listing numbers of specific illnesses without giving any context combined with the total avoidance of the fact that virtually all these cases come from high-volume, industrial processing facilities, and the tacit assumption that passing a law will have the effect they say it will) I see no reason to trust the people supporting it.
    Schlosser’s analogy to Wall Street regulation is so childish and smarmy that it distracts from his argument. Plus, isn’t he one of the guys who has said that the formalization of the term “USDA Certified Organic” hasn’t worked out as intended? Why does he suddenly think thinks will work out better this time?
    If FSMA passes, the protections they’re trying to put in for the little guys will instantly be re-named “loopholes” by the self-appointed food police, and they’ll immediately try to shut them down. There needs to be hard borders around the FDA’s authority to regulate small farms and processors, like the Tester/Hagan amendment.

  • Doc Mudd

    The anti-farm sophist Schlosser displays rare common sense on this issue! One could hardly suggest that he, too, is a “Big Ag pawn”.
    How can any compassionate person be opposed to safe food, unless they have a pecuniary motive to resist? Seriously.

  • dangermaus

    No one is opposed to safe food, Doc. The argument is that the way we are producing food has resulted in low-price, low-quality, ready-to-ship, ready-to-eat, starchy, fatty, over-salted, over-sweetened franken-food that is making us obese, diabetic, and ignorant of any sort of food culture (among other things).
    FSMA does nothing to address this central problem of nutrition in the US. Worse, it will make life significantly harder for the few producers that are actually producing “real food” (as opposed to things like processed grain products, and veggies that are shipped before they’re ripe).
    Personally, I’ve always thought Schlosser was way to biased to be credible, and his speech here just reinforces that belief.

  • Doc Mudd

    “The argument”, as you phrase it, dangermaus, is indefensible and way too over-wrought. Schlosser has skillfully seen to that.
    But, now we bash Schlosser for expressing a lucid thought regarding food safety? How long before he is made out to be on the Monsanto dole?

  • joseph

    Wow the folks who are bashing Schlosser on this post must be employed by these food corporations. What level minded person would be opposed to greater regulation of our food? Obesity levels and heart disease figures in America will only continue to grow. And yes it is the parents’ responsibilities to a certain extent, but there’s only so much that can be done when so much of what we’re eating is tainted.
    WE NEED CLEANER FOOD. Anyone who opposes that statement clearly has ulterior motives.