Dec 30, 2010

Food Safety Bill Passes In Last Minute Deal

The Food Safety Bill, (S.510), which was earlier attached to the omnibus appropriations bill and was thought dead, made a last minute resurrection and passed in a late night Senate vote on Sunday (Dec. 19). The House of Representatives will take the bill up on Dec. 20; it is expected to pass. President Obama has pledged to sign the measure. The bill will give the government far-reaching authority to set and enforce food safety standards for farmers and food processors.

The bill has prompted lots of controversy and a storied journey through the lawmaking process. Consumer groups were concerned whether the bill went far enough to reach all producers and processors, while some farm interests protested that the bill would effectively shutdown many small farmers and small processors. So the opposition ran the gamut from big ag and processors who did not want such far-reaching regulation, to small farmers and processors who feared for their livelihoods to consumer groups fearing that the measure would not adequately protect the public.

The bill that passed contained an amendment that will create size appropriate alternatives that will benefit very small processing facilities as well as those producers with less than $500,000 in annual sales that primarily direct market products to consumers, to stores, or restaurants within state boundaries or within 400 miles of the farm or processing facility.

If the food safety bill had died FDA would have proceeded with writing produce standard rules and enhanced food processing controls on the basis of current broad authorities. That authority lacked the specific directives contained in the legislation to avoid one-size-fits-all regulation and remove some on-farm processing activities from regulatory control based on a risk assessment, and would have been harmful to small farm operations.

For background on the Food Safety Bill, go to
For NSAC’s position paper on food safety go to
With input from NSAC Weekly Updates Dec. 17 and 20, 2010.

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