Food Safety Legislation Expected To Pass Soon

The Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) could be on the President’s desk within a few weeks. The bill was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November 2009, and after months of waiting, the Senate is expected to bring pending food safety legislation to the floor within the next week.

Even though the bill has the support to get through the Senate, many small farmers still have concerns about the bill, which they feel will place too heavy a burden on local food producers.  Eighty-seven groups, including the Center for Food Safety, and dozens of food co-ops, recently signed a letter in support of an amendment proposed by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) that would exempt small, local processing facilities from some of the bill’s controls and traceability requirements.

“Farmers and processors who sell directly to consumers and end users have a direct relationship with their customers that ensures quality, safety, transparency and accountability,” said the letter.  “In addition, small-scale food producers are already regulated by local and state authorities, and the potential risk their products pose is inherently limited by their size.”

Many agriculture groups are hoping to gain support to reduce federal regulation on small farmers and producers. Such groups contend that local and organic farms are safer than the large industrial food producers and are not the source of the food safety problems. Centralized production, centralized processing, and long distance transportation are the main threats to food safety. Not surprisingly, those who are coordinating the effort for federal food safety reform, such as the Center for Science of Public Interest, and the Grocery Manufacturers of America, do not support federal exemptions. “We do have issues with anything that provides any blanket exemptions,” Sandra Eskin, director of the food safety campaign with The Pew Charitable Trusts, told Food Safety News in an interview. “Food should be safe regardless of its source–big processor, small farm, conventional operation or organic grower. We can talk about scale-appropriate regulation, but not exemptions.”

Both House and Senate versions of the bill give the FDA mandatory recall authority, require more frequent inspections, and ask food facilities to implement food safety plans. Most likely this legislation will require changes to how your label and track your products. Contact Winco ID and we can discuss ways to easily add traceability to your food processing operations.

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