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Senate Passes Landmark Food Safety Legislation

November 30th, 2010

CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY APPLAUDS NEW POWER FOR THE FDA

Tester-Hagan Amendment Seen as a Win for Small, Local Food Producers and Processors, Consumers

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) applauds the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) in the U.S. Senate. The bill which passed the Senate this morning will give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a greater ability to safeguard our nation’s food system; including the ability to order mandatory food recalls as well as require food facilities to put food safety plans in place. The bill also includes vital provisions introduced by Senators Tester and Hagan that protect small and local food producers and processors. 

“Passing Food Safety legislation is a significant victory for consumers who stand at the front lines of this country’s war on food-borne illness,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. “This legislation will finally give FDA the long awaited mandatory recall authority it needs to ensure that the same companies who sicken the public do not dictate the recall of their products,” Kimbrell said.

On November 18, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), the only organic farmer in Congress, reached an agreement with the authors of S. 510 to include a new, compromise version of the Tester-Hagan amendment in the Senate food safety bill. The amendment exempts small farmers and processors who sell directly to consumers and end users from FDA regulation due to their direct relationship with their customers that ensures quality, safety, transparency and accountability. For these small farmers and processors, the costs of complying with all the new federal requirements would be burdensome and add little to food safety. They still must meet all state and local food safety requirements.

The amendment includes the following requirements for exemption:

  1. Producers must have annual gross sales less than $500,000. This includes all subsidiaries and affiliates of a business, so it carefully prevents any larger businesses from using this as a loophole.
  2. Producers must sell more than half their products directly to consumers (including at farmers markets) or to local restaurants and retailers that in turn sell directly to consumers. The definition of “qualified end user” ensures that the producer is not selling into national chains or into long supply chains. Regardless of the radius of the distance, the test requires directsales that enable consumers to hold producers accountable for any problems.
  3. FDA has authority to withdraw an exemption from a farm or facility associated with a foodborne illness outbreak.
  4. The distance from a facility or farm that is eligible to be a “qualified end-user” was reduced to 275 miles.

“Our support for the bill recognizes that several lamentable concessions in the main bill were made to appease the industry and put a stop to delaying tactics preventing a vote on the bill.” said Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Food Safety. “These included removing important provisions that would have allowed FDA to bring criminal charges against producers who knowingly ship tainted food to consumers as well as reducing the frequency of FDA inspections to once every five years.” 

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in July 2009. The two bills will now go through Conference Committee and members are confident that any food safety legislation that comes out of Conference will be signed into law by President Obama. 

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The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS currently represents more than 130,000 members across the nation. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org

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