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News for December 3, 2010

Senate Screws Up on Food Safety Legislation

Earlier this week, the Senate voted in favor of the historic FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), a landmark bill that aims to seal up the gaping holes in America's food safety system. Contamination-conscious consumers breathed a sigh of relief, because it appeared that the bill was finally moving again and on the road to passage. But before you put on your party hat, better put it back down: The Senate totally mucked things up.

Apparently the bill the senators agreed upon and passed onto the House violates Constitutional law. As Food Safety News reports, the senators' version of the bill includes "a provision that would allow the FDA to impose fees on importers and on companies whose food is recalled because of contamination." Sounds reasonable, except it's illegal: As Grist's Tom Philpott writes, all revenue-raising measures like this one must originate in the House. Guess the Senate forgot about that minor, little, Constitutional law.


Constitutional provision jeopardizes sweeping food safety bill

A procedural problem is threatening to derail a landmark food safety measure passed by the Senate on Tuesday, sending congressional leaders scrambling to figure out a way to get the bill enacted into law by the end of the lame-duck session this month.

The legislation, which would give vast new authority to the Food and Drug Administration and is designed to reduce nationwide outbreaks of food-borne illness, has wide public support. The House passed a more stringent version more than a year ago, and before House leaders knew about the procedural problem, they indicated the House would accept the Senate version. President Obama has said he would sign the bill into law.

READ MORE (Washington Post) ]

Mixed reaction to Food Safety Act

The passing of the new S. 510 Food Safety Modernisation Act by the US Senate has drawn a mixed reaction from the fresh produce industry, ahead of the bill being sent to the House of Representatives for review and approval.

On announcement of the Act's passing, the United Fresh Produce Association's Robert Guenther said that the organisation was "disappointed" that several "egregious loopholes" had been left in the legislation that could potentially undermine consumer confidence in food safety.

READ MORE (FruitNet) ]

Food safety bill won’t hurt Vt. farms

Local and organic food advocates in Vermont say a food safety bill that passed the Senate, Tuesday, offers protections for small-scale producers, while improving the safety of the nation’s larger food system.

Both of Vermont’s senators supported the bill, which passed by a 73-25 vote.

READ MORE (Brattleboro Reformer) ]

The Hidden Agenda of the Tester-Hagan Amendment: Hint, It Has to Do with NAIS (Remember That?)

The Tester-Hagan Amendment was supposed to be the savior of S510, giving smaller producers an exemption from the worst requirements of the so-called food safety legislation. Now, it turns out, the amendment may be the great black hole of the entire food safety steamroller. 

While the lawyers are trying to figure out ways to finagle around the U.S. Senate's error in venturing into the U.S. House's territory by initiating revenue-generating legislation, another hole has opened in the crumbling dike that is S510. (Even The Wall Street Journal, normally a supporter of the FDA, has come out against it, stealing some of my lines, it seems.)

READ MORE (Complete Patient) ]

Analysis of the Tester-Hagan Amendment

Summary of the Key Points of the Tester-Hagan Amendment

Clarifies that businesses that sell more than half of their products directly to individual consumers are exempt from both the existing registration and the new HACCP-type requirements, whether or not they are processing the food at a location different from where the sale occurs.

READ MORE (Farm and Ranch Freedom) ]

Take Back Our Food System: Antitrust Investigation Needs You

Four companies process 80 percent of America's beef. Three companies process 70 percent of our soy. Four companies process more than 66 percent of our pork. Monsanto alone controls some 90 percent of seed genetics, but will sell only a few of the seeds that the company owns. I do believe this is what you call monopolizing the market.

Think a small cabal of food corporations are controlling too much of our food system? It sure looks that way. This kind of corporate concentration means that too few players have too much control over price setting — for both producers (including farmers) and consumers. It also means that companies aren't competing on a level playing field. Especially if you believe in free markets, seeing how lop-sided our food industry has become should set off some alarms. This degree of consolidation is a rotten deal for anyone who loves safe, high-quality, fairly priced food.


The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer

Wednesday is the day I pick up my raw milk from a local urban drop point and it is also Real Food Wednesdays over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s blog. She has a great round-up of all kinds of real food related posts and recipes every Wednesday from the realfood blogosphere. I have come to really look forward to this day, I really like having a day of the week dedicated to Real Food like this. I also meet interesting people on my bus ride to get the milk. One morning it was an elder indigenous woman who was heading home to can freshly caught salmon, another time it was an old man asking about the wild fennel I had just foraged from the alley, sticking out of the back of my blue hand-cart, another time I met another cowshare member who was growing her own mushrooms on a bag of straw. The cycles of relationship created by getting involved with real, living food are very grounding and healing.

We also get real pastured eggs through our local cowshare. In October, I was also really lucky to get a loan of the book The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer by Joel Salatin from a cowshare member when we were at the Contempt of Court trial against our local community dairy, which is now being run by Michael Schmidt.

READ MORE (Hella Delicious) ]




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