Members of a food-safety coalition are gunning for two amendments to the Farm Bill they say would delay implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA) and impede a state’s ability to protect its citizens from foodborne illness.
Eight consumer groups comprising the Make Our Food Safe Coalition and the Safe Food Coalition sent a joint letter on Tuesday to all 41 House and Senate conferees now working on a final Farm Bill, asking them to reject the two proposals.
The first amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), would forbid any state from imposing its own higher standards or conditions on food produced or manufactured in another state. The second, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to complete additional scientific studies and cost-benefit analyses before the agency could enforce any FMSA regulations.
According to the coalition’s letter, King’s amendment would keep some states from implementing stronger food-safety standards than others, possibly resulting in one with a weaker safety record setting standards for all the other states.
The letter put it this way: “For example, California in 2003 banned contaminated oysters from the Gulf of Mexico unless they are processed to eliminate deadly bacteria. This law has resulted in clear benefits for California residents. Under the King amendment, Louisiana’s law that allows the sale of unprocessed oysters would supersede California’s law and restrict California from protecting its citizens.”
King has said that his amendment, introduced as the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act,” would prevent states from “entering into trade protectionism by requiring cost prohibitive production methods in other states.”
He further stated that his proposed legislation “will ensure radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”
Benishek’s amendment would serve only to delay FSMA implementation, the coalition letter states, calling the 2011 legislation “a much-needed shift in FDA’s approach from reaction to prevention.” The letter also says that FDA has already done “detailed technical and economic analyses of virtually every aspect of the proposals” FSMA contains.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer,” the letter continues, adding, “Equally troubling is the amendment’s requirement that FDA cease enforcing any FSMA provision until these additional analyses are completed.”
The food-safety groups also raised the specter of additional foodborne illness outbreaks occurring during unnecessary delays in implementing FSMA, stating that, since FSMA was signed into law, there have been 19 reported multistate foodborne-illness outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated products.
“The deadliest one, linked to cantaloupe, killed 33 (and caused one miscarriage), the largest death toll for an outbreak in decades. The proposed FSMA produce regulations are designed specifically to prevent outbreaks such as this one,” the letter notes.
Benishek, who earlier this year introduced legislation to defund implementation of FSMA’s produce safety rules, has indicated concern about the costs to farmers of complying with them.
“I support access to clean, safe, and healthy food, but this proposed rulemaking will have widespread consequences for American family farmers,” he said this past May on the House floor.
Signatories on the letter to the Farm Bill conferees are: The Pew Charitable Trusts, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, Consumer Federal of America, National Consumers League, American Public Health Association, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union and STOP Foodborne Illness.© Food Safety News