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Coalition Questions Tester’s Small-Farm Exemptions

Congress may be on recess, but food safety politicking is in full swing.

A coalition backing the pending food safety bill sent an email to Senate offices Tuesday, soliciting support for the upcoming cloture vote.  The email also asks for support in modifying the Tester amendment, a popular provision that would exempt small farmers from certain regulations.

The note reminds Senate offices that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture petition to bring the bill to the floor:  ”We anticipate a vote on Wednesday, November 17.  We urge your senator to support this motion.”

The undersigned organizations–which include the American Public Health Association, Consumers Union, and The Pew Charitable Trusts–reiterate their support for the bipartisan manager’s package of amendments to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

The package does not include the Tester amendment, or Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) controversial amendment to ban the chemical bisphenol A from certain food packaging.  ”The package will strengthen protection of the nation’s food supply and provide key tools to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help prevent food contamination and to detect and attack foodborne disease outbreaks quickly and effectively,” reads the email.

“However, our organizations oppose the current draft of the Tester amendment and are deeply concerned about its impact on the safety of the food supply,” the groups continue. “Certain provisions of the amendment must be changed so that it does not weaken current law and exempt large amounts of food–including high-risk foods–from FDA regulation.”

The alert includes a white paper that outlines the concerns of the coalition, formally the Make Our Food Safe campaign.

According to Make Our Food Safe, “unintended consequences” of the amendment could “pose serious danger to consumers.”

“Problems with the amendment include, most importantly, the fact that it does not consider the risk of microbiological contamination and foodborne illness posed by a particular food in granting an exemption from federal food safety regulation,” reads the memo, which questions the amendment’s definition of local food and the $500,000 annual sales threshold.

“It is unclear if the $500,000 criterion is appropriate; we need to know what percentage of sales of fresh produce, and of FDA-regulated processed foods, firms of this size and smaller represent,” says the document.  ”Rather than setting a specific dollar amount in the statute, the Tester amendment should, instead, direct FDA to conduct an analysis of these two markets and determine an appropriate sales volume criterion for any exemption or modified requirements.”

Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a group fighting to have the amendment added to the bill on the Senate floor, called the document “surprisingly inaccurate,” but added that NSAC would not formally respond until later Wednesday.

© Food Safety News
  • dangermaus

    Viewing food policy exclusively through the lens of food-borne pathogens is short-sighted and will wind up with fewer producers of fewer kinds of foods (albeit they’d be organized into more, different-looking pre-processed packages with different labels).
    Stop eliminating freedom in the name of safety. I don’t want anyone to save me from my own decisions. We’re driving this country off a cliff.

  • http://www.healthyfoodcoalition.org hhamil

    From this and earlier articles in “Food Safety News,” readers would reasonably conclude that the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is leading the effort to add the Tester-Hagan amendments to S 510. That is NOT true. In fact, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. (CFSA) are the groups that have lead the fight to include Tester-Hagan’s protections in S 510. Their representatives—Judith McGeary, Sara Kendall and Roland McReynolds, respectively—are who Food Safety News needs to be contacting because they—not NSAC—will be leading the effort to correct the misrepresentations that the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS) continues make about the impact of S 510 on small growers, packers, processors and distributors and what the newly proposed language based upon the bill managers’ amendment actually would do.
    Also, the title and content of this article give the impression that Tester-Hagan is only trying to protect small farmers. That is not true. TESTER-HAGAN ALSO PROTECTS the small packers, processors and distributors needed to get the harvest from small farmers into broader distribution.

  • http://smartculturekitchen.blogspot.com Michael Bulger

    MOFS hits quite a few nails on their heads. Good paper and worth discussion. I hope the Senate can reach some semblance of a consensus and move food safety forward rather than getting bogged down.
    NSAC represents a large number of grassroots organizations and respected businesses and institutions. They generally do a good job of responsibly presenting their opinions without distorting the reality of S.510, its language, and its implications.

  • http://www.healthyfoodcoalition.org Harry Hamil

    From this and earlier articles in “Food Safety News,” readers would reasonably conclude that the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is leading the effort to add the Tester-Hagan amendments to S 510. That is NOT true. In fact, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. (CFSA) are the groups that have lead the fight to include Tester-Hagan’s protections in S 510. Their representatives—Judith McGeary, Sara Kendall and Roland McReynolds, respectively—are who Food Safety News needs to be contacting because they—not NSAC—will be leading the effort to correct the misrepresentations that the Make Our Food Safe Coalition (MOFS) continues make about the impact of S 510 on small growers, packers, processors and distributors and what the newly proposed language based upon the bill managers’ amendment actually would do.
    Also, the title and content of this article give the impression that Tester-Hagan is only trying to protect small farmers. That is not true. TESTER-HAGAN ALSO PROTECTS the small packers, processors and distributors needed to get the harvest from small farmers into broader distribution.