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UPDATE: Food Safety Bill Clears Full Senate

UPDATE: The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, S.510, cleared the full Senate Tuesday by a vote of 73-25. See Food Safety News tomorrow for all the details. For live updates see the @foodsafetynews Twitter page.

The Senate food safety bill, which has been inching towards passage the past few weeks, cleared a key procedural hurdle Monday, but Senate leaders put off two votes on amendments and the final vote on the bill to Tuesday morning.

The upper chamber voted 69 to 26 to limit debate on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), which now includes a measure to exempt small farms and producers sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). The amendment, cosponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), has complicated the debate over the sweeping food safety legislation. The compromise to include a scaled-back version of the Tester-Hagan amendment got key sustainable agriculture groups on board, kept consumer groups in the fold, but isolated the biggest players in the fresh produce industry who have been working on the legislation for several months. (See: Politics, Small Farm Deal Stall Food Safety Bill, Nov 19, 2010)

The inclusion of Tester-Hagan also cost the bill one of its original cosponsors: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). Chambliss took the floor of the Senate yesterday and said he regretted that he could no longer support S.510, because it had become so different from the legislation he originally backed.

After a few hours of debate that was largely focused on amendments to fix a burdensome paperwork glitch in the health care bill, the Senate began a heated discussion on an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to end legislative earmarks through 2013.

According to sources on the Capitol Hill, the Senate is planning to consider the controversial earmark moratorium and severely scaled back substitute amendment by Sen. Coburn. Coburn has become S.510′s fiercest opponent, citing the bill’s five-year, $1.4 billion price tag–which the Congressional Budget Office has deemed deficit neutral. Coburn also argues that the bill fails to address systemic problems with federal food safety oversight and will increase the cost of food as well as leave the states with unfunded mandates.

“It doesn’t [fix food safety].  What it does is it raises costs.  We’re going to increase the cost of food,” said Coburn, adding that his proposal would force the agencies to better coordinate.

Coburn argued that his amendment would fix the real food safety problem: ineffective government.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the that unanimously approved the bill in November 2009, took the floor with a very different perspective.  Harkin argued that Coburn’s measure “kills the bill entirely.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also weighed in Monday, issuing a statement of support for final passage for the manager’s amendment for S.510.  ”This legislation would improve food safety by requiring all food manufacturers to develop a food safety plan, providing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with new tools to ensure the safety of imported food, and employing a rational, risk-based approach to inspection,” said Bruce Josten, the group’s executive vice president for government affairs.

Though it appears Democrats still have the coalition needed to get the legislation through the Senate, it remains to be seen whether the House will agree to take up and pass the Senate version of the bill.

Votes on the food safety bill and amendments are set to begin at 9:15 a.m. EST. If you’re on twitter, follow the debate at @foodsafetynews.

© Food Safety News
  • Cecly Corbett

    This Bill is a disgusting breech of democracy. It does the opposite of what it claims. It’s nearly impossible to get natural healthy food in the market. I hate this. It’s evil. I want to eat unprocessed food. food that actually tastes goodand is chemical and cruelty free. This is fascist. I don’t tell you what to eat! Get out of this kind of bullying. You only serve corperate interest not the people.

  • http://www.shtfm.com SHTFM.com

    This bill shouldnever pass, if it does then we are all in for it.

  • chris determan

    Is monsanto, syngenta, garst, and other behind this bill?

  • http://www.healthyfoodcoalition.org hhamil

    Yesterday, FSN described Sen. Coburn’s substitute bill as “an alternative, scaled-back food safety bill” has become a “severely scaled back substitute amendment.” How is this possible as the amendment has remained the same?
    And I pointed out in a comment that the first description was “VERY MISLEADING” because Dr. Coburn’s substitute bill also “addresses important issues of food safety regulation which S 510 omits.”
    I continued, “A good example is the requirement is in Sec. 2. Ensuring Federal agencies effectively communicate to ensure greater food safety which states, ‘not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary or Agriculture shall establish a plan to ensure effective information sharing regarding the regulation and inspection of food products and facilities, including violations, in which the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture share joint, overlapping, or similar responsibility.’”
    So, now we have an even more misleading description of Dr. Coburn’s substitute motion.
    I’ve always given FSN credit for trying to be accurate in all of its reporting and done what I could to improve its accuracy. Unfortunately, recently there have been more and more examples like this. So, I believe it is time to ask, “Is FSN more interested in accurate reporting or advocacy?”
    Our country has more than enough poor journalism in our mainstream media. If we are to accurately understand our situation and problems, we need accurate reporting first; otherwise, how we can decide what is best for our country.
    I urge FSN to rededicate itself to full, accurate reporting of events and issues.
    I will happily defend all that I have written or provide more information or simply discuss S 510 with anyone who contacts me at healthyfoodcoalition@gmail.com

  • Elaine Pfiffner

    This bill should never pass. Can’t the big guys see how many sick people there are now? More people on dialysis, heart problems, over weight (obesity). The big guys are controlling all these problems and someone is getting paid big bucks with no conscious at all. Think about ones longevity and do good while you are here, doing bad could bring you long suffering in some ways later. God knows and will see to it what you deserve.
    The “big guys”- Pharmacetical companies, the FDA which is suppose to protect the citizens are definitely not doing what they should be doing. Might as well drop that Federal Agency or get some decent honest people in it, and most politicians are full of greed. Also leave the small businesses alone, they should be allowed to do what they want, providing its good for your health. Talking about small Organic farms. Too many processed foods in the market are hurting people.

  • Hello USA

    Its a shame most Americans aren’t aware of whats going on, or more accurately don’t care what’s going on. Im convinced that our government is run by evil reptilians. This bill proves that, they virtually want to kill everyone with toxic food! Time to go to a country where people will fight the government(France), not line up obediently to the slaughter(USA)

  • chris selkirk

    I wholeheartedly agree with the previous two comments. Even with the amendment for businesses that are under $500k it still sucks. There are a number of suppliers that do above that that are vital to the small farms. We do not want our food and seed supply to be controlled by Monsanto.

  • Hope Honeycutt

    I wont to be free to eat food from the source I choose!

  • Larry Boyer

    This is so typical of America anymore – Big agribusiness (like all big business everywhere) attempts to regulate what we eat (and wear and all other “risks”) in the name of Food Safety while small farmers who mostly care about providing good, organic, nutritious safe food are run out of business. Jefferson must be turning in his grave – his dream of an agrarian free society are almost gone entirely. All this while the left and right shouts at each other. Agribusiness must be laughing their asses off!!!!

  • Michael Bulger

    Not exactly a historian here… but wasn’t Jefferson a large plantation owner who performed a few administrative duties while employing slave labor?
    Seems he would compare more with agribusinesses of today as far as where he fit into the socio-economic landscape of his day..

  • dangermaus

    “Sterile” is not the same thing as “safe”. It seems that people only think of food-borne pathogens when they hear “Food Safety”. Too much of the news about food, often the articles on this site, seem like they are specifically written to make people afraid of germs in their food without good reason. We need to a new paradigm of our entire food culture, one that is not based on fear of invisible germs*, but is based on seeking out flavors, textures, and other pleasures that one only gets from fresh food.
    I’ll admit it might be helpful to have more monitoring for specific food-borne pathogens in high-volume processing facilities, but we should be careful not to lose the point of what food is for… We’re forgetting about nutrition and the quality of the overall eating experience – it’s about nutrition and pleasure, not about avoiding starvation and poison! Highly-processed “Safe” food that we eat often still makes us obese, diabetic, hypertensive, and allergic to our food and environment.
    Big agriculture organizations focus on value-added, pre-processed foods because it’s much more profitable to processors and grocery stores than raw foods. Flavor dissipates from food as it is stored, so the extra salt, sweeteners and flavorings are used to make it more palatable. There have been rumblings about regulating salt (gmab) in the news lately… If the salt was suddenly taken out of most processed food, it would taste like plaster, people wouldn’t want it. We need to cook more meals from scratch prepared from local, live, fresh ingredients prepared in simple, interesting ways, which requires much less salt. I think we’d enjoy it more, too.
    If farmers started growing more gourmet restaurant-quality varieties of veggies, it would likely involve more farm labor, and the goods probably wouldn’t ship as well, but that’s OK if they can sell them locally at a premium (as farmers’ market veggies are, now). This would probably mean consumers would spend more on raw ingredients (the plus side of which is that farmers usually get more money for their produce when they sell directly at markets), but less on processed, value-added foods.
    Whether we would be spending more on food *overall* would obviously depend on the individual making the decisions, and how the market would react to more people “eating locally”. Farmers’ markets would need to dramatically increase in sales volume, which would change the factors going into how their products are priced, so who knows… We’d have to spend more time cooking, and shop a little more frequently, of course, but we’d definitely be eating better, feeling healthier, and maybe enjoing life more.
    *Obviously we need to be aware of certain bugs, just that consideration of them shouldn’t preclude all other considerations.

  • dangermaus

    @Michael
    Jefferson’s “Gentleman Farmer” model has been drawn on by all sides, but personally, I think it best fits the “sustainable ag” model that emphasizes silvaculture. I have no doubt whatsoever what he’d think of FSMA, and the FDA in general, though:
    “If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson.
    “There is No Right to Consume or Feed Children Any Particular Food; There is No Generalized Right to Bodily and Physical Health; There is No Fundamental Right to Freedom of Contract.” ~ US Dept of Health & Human Services and US Food & Drug Administration, 2010

  • dangermaus

    “silviculture” is the wrong word (trees), now that I think about it… “Soil Conservation” is what I meant.

  • Tom Snyder

    This is a bill for George Soros and Monsanto, not for the American farmer or the consumer. They are trying to control the food supply so they can starve anyone who opposes them, like they did in Stalinist Russia, in Mao’s China and today in North Korea. What are they doing to our corn, vegetables, fruits, and livestock????

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

    Yesterday, FSN described Sen. Coburn’s substitute bill as “an alternative, scaled-back food safety bill” has become a “severely scaled back substitute amendment.” How is this possible as the amendment has remained the same?
    And I pointed out in a comment that the first description was “VERY MISLEADING” because Dr. Coburn’s substitute bill also “addresses important issues of food safety regulation which S 510 omits.”
    I continued, “A good example is the requirement is in Sec. 2. Ensuring Federal agencies effectively communicate to ensure greater food safety which states, ‘not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary or Agriculture shall establish a plan to ensure effective information sharing regarding the regulation and inspection of food products and facilities, including violations, in which the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture share joint, overlapping, or similar responsibility.’”
    So, now we have an even more misleading description of Dr. Coburn’s substitute motion.
    I’ve always given FSN credit for trying to be accurate in all of its reporting and done what I could to improve its accuracy. Unfortunately, recently there have been more and more examples like this. So, I believe it is time to ask, “Is FSN more interested in accurate reporting or advocacy?”
    Our country has more than enough poor journalism in our mainstream media. If we are to accurately understand our situation and problems, we need accurate reporting first; otherwise, how we can decide what is best for our country.
    I urge FSN to rededicate itself to full, accurate reporting of events and issues.
    I will happily defend all that I have written or provide more information or simply discuss S 510 with anyone who contacts me at healthyfoodcoalition@gmail.com

  • thom

    I origenally started searching for info on s.510 because of a conversation with a neighbor who told me there were mentions of new “restrictions” at the home gardener and farmers market levels. Would any of you be so kind as to help me understand if any of this is true?
    I know that the kind of controls that they are trying to impose even on large scale agriculture is rediculous and that if it passes will effect our ways of life dramatically. Perhaps not emmediately but they will. We cannot let our government systematically starve and/or poison us and our families.

  • John – Carmel, IN.

    Shortly after passage, it was pointed out the bill contains revenue raising provisions and the constitution requires bills that raise revenue to originate in the House. At this time, the strategy to move the bill forward was unclear.
    Another attempt to circumvent the truth!

  • dave sullivan

    As a farmer who has twenty to twenty five acres in cultivation annually, markets all produce within 100 miles and pays my employees fair wages, I feel that 500k is way to low of a number. The Tester ammendment would create an unlevel playing field at farmers markets between very small/hobby farms and small sustainable family farms.
    E. Coli and other pathogens exist in trace amounts all around us. When produce is washed and consumed fresh, these low levels go unnoticed. When shipping/storage conditions are not ideal and weeks go by (from harvest to plate), a perfect storm for food safety issues is created.
    I personally hope this bill fails. If it is to pass, I hope it does not include the Tester ammendment.