Food Safety Comments
Maria Minno: This bill is a threat to small farms
Article from Gainsville.com
Sun file photo
HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, includes a number of alarming provisions:
First, HR2749 would give FDA the power to order a quarantine of a geographic area, including "prohibiting or restricting the movement of food or of any vehicle being used or that has been used to transport or hold such food within the geographic area." This undermines food security, because under this provision, our safest sources of food, farmers markets and local food sources, could be shut down arbitrarily, even if they are not the source of the contamination. The agency can halt all movement of all food in a geographic area. This is too much power for a governmental agency!
Second, this act authorizes warrantless searches. The FDA, which has proven itself to be highly biased against local farmers and any competition to industrial food producers, to make random warrantless searches of the business records of small farmers and local food producers, without any evidence whatsoever that there has been a violation. Even farmers selling direct to consumers would have to provide the federal government with records on where they buy supplies, how they raise their crops, and a list of customers. This is too much power for an irresponsible government agency such as the FDA.
Third, what this act refers to as "traceability" is actually most likely to be a huge threat to small sustainable farms. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would be charged with establishing a tracing system for food. Each "person who produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, or holds such food" would have to "maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food," and "establish and maintain a system for tracing the food that is interoperable with the systems established and maintained by other such persons." Whether or not this is NAIS or something even more extensive, the bill does not explain how far the traceback will extend or how it will be done for multi-ingredient foods. With all these ambiguities, it's far from clear how much it will cost either the farmers or the taxpayers.
Fourth, this act will impose severe criminal and civil penalties, including prison terms of up to 10 years and/or fines of up to a total of $100,000 for individuals.
Fifth, HR 2749 would impose an annual registration fee of $500 on any "facility" that holds, processes, or manufactures food. Although "farms" are exempt, the agency has defined "farm" narrowly. And people making foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables, cheeses, or breads would be required to register and pay the fee, which could drive beginning and small producers out of business during difficult economic times.
Sixth, HR 2749 would empower FDA to regulate how crops are raised and harvested. It puts the federal government right on the farm, dictating to our farmers. Heaven help us if this happens!