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Senate Food Safety Update

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congressThe bill, with language that is substantially different from its original version, passed the Senate on Tuesday morning by a vote of 73 to 25. Our update has up-to-the-minute information.

The legislation—the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510)—was intended to get the FDA to crack down on unsafe foods before they harm people rather than after outbreaks occur. But it was especially controversial because of a number of provisions that would have created a litany of unintended regulatory consequences for small organic farms and supplement manufacturers. The bill is much improved from its earlier version despite pushback from anti-health-supplement proponents and the processed food industry. The work of a diverse and dedicated coalition and a few members of Congress helped change the bill for the better.
These are some of the changes that ANH-USA and our allies have made to the Food Safety bill:

  • Excluded excessive punishment.

Last week we learned that S. 510 would not include the obscene ten-year jail sentences for food and supplement manufacturers who violate complicated FDA rules. That draconian language was specifically designed to target supplement manufacturers while leaving pharmaceutical drug and medical device companies untouched.

  • Resisted international harmonization of food and health supplement policy.

Together we worked to modify language that would have committed the US to harmonization of international food and supplement rules similar to those in Europe, where attempts are being made to regulate away natural health.

  • Excluded small farmers from burdensome regulation.

Among the Senate bill’s last major sticking points was how it would affect small farmers and food producers. Some small-farm and organic food advocates warned that the legislation would destroy their industry under a mountain of paperwork. Working with the natural health community, ANH-USA succeeded in winning inclusion of an amendment from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), which exempts producers with less than $500,000 a year in sales who sell most of their food locally. ANH-USA and other organizations fought tirelessly to protect the bourgeoning local healthy food movement from unwarranted federal regulation, and from the processed food companies that are increasingly nervous about the new competition. Thirty processed food organizations like the American Frozen Food Institute and the Corn Refiners Association sent a letter to the Senate arguing that a local produce stand should face the same regulatory hurdles as their industrial-scale processed food operations.

As we previously reported, the House of Representatives has agreed to adopt this Senate version of the bill instead of the awful House version that passed last year. We still do not like the final bill; it has much that is wrong with it. But the House bill was such a horror that we can take comfort in the changes that we were able to make in the Senate. And we will have opportunities to shape its implementation through the rule-making process as the FDA puts more meat on the legislative bones.
Our thanks again to you, our grassroots activists, who overwhelmed the Senate with your letters, phone calls, and emails. You are making the democratic process work!

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