Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

I received a constituent form letter from Sen. Claire McCaskill regarding the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (P.L. 111-353). I know there are people out there who know more than I do about this issue, and can save me some research time by pointing me to resources that might answer these questions more accurately (vigilantly) than Sen.McCaskill has. Please leave a comment if you can help me.

Dear Mr. Craig,

Thank you for contacting me regarding food safety legislation. I appreciate hearing from you, and welcome the opportunity to respond.

Recently, the Senate passed and the President signed into law the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (P.L. 111-353). This bipartisan legislation, which I supported, provides important new protections for American consumers while also ensuring that family farmers, small producers, farmers' markets, and local gardeners are not subject to new federal requirements.

Federal, state and local agencies share responsibility with the food industry for ensuring the safety of the food supply in the U.S. Unfortunately, a number of recent incidents have highlighted some gaps in our food safety system. Our food safety laws, which were enacted in the early 20th century, have not kept pace with the major changes in production, processing and marketing that have taken place in recent years. Each year, thousands of Americans are made seriously ill from foodborne illnesses and many result in death.

The Food Safety Modernization Act will improve the safety of our food supply in a number of ways. This legislation authorizes the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to issue mandatory recalls in the event that businesses do not voluntarily recall harmful foods. Previously, the FDA possessed authority to order food recalls only for infant formula. This legislation will also subject imported foods to increased scrutiny. Under the new law, the FDA will be able to require certification for high-risk foods, and deny entry to foods that lacks certification or that are from a foreign facility that has refused U.S. inspectors. The Food Safety Modernization Act will also require grocery stores and other food retailers to notify consumers if they have sold foods that have been recalled.

I know that many Missourians have concerns about this legislation. For instance, many have raised questions about how this legislation will affect local organic farmers, their neighborhood farmer's market, or the garden in their back yard. As a lifelong Missourian whose family worked at a feed mill, I understand that agriculture is more than a primary driver of Missouri's economy; it is a part of our state's cultural fabric. I would not have supported any legislation that jeopardized this culture and this legislation does not.

In order to ensure this, I supported an important amendment provisions to the Food Safety Modernization Act, offered by Senator Tester of Montana (himself a small producer), which will ensure that family farmers and other local producers are exempt from new federal requirements. To be clear, food sold through farmers' markets, bake sales, road side stands, public events, community supported agriculture, and organizational fundraisers is exempt from new regulations.

For your information, I have included with this letter a document providing answers to frequently asked questions regarding the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

I am pleased that a broad, bipartisan coalition of senators joined together to support this important legislation. It ensures that American families can be confident that the food their families enjoy is the safest in the world, while safeguarding the ability of family farms and small producers to continue doing what they do best.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.


Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

P.L. 111-353: Frequently Asked Questions

Will P.L. 111-353 outlaw home gardens and family farms? NO.
P.L. 111-353 does not outlaw home gardens or family farms. In fact, the bill explicitly states that the produce standards “shall not apply to produce that is produced by an individual for personal consumption.” In addition, the bill also contains an exemption from regulations for small facilities and small farms, which was purposefully included to protect America’s family farms. This includes food sold through farmers‟ markets, bake sales, road side stands, public events, community supported agriculture, and organizational fundraisers.

Will P.L. 111-353 criminalize seed savings? NO.
P.L. 111-353 does not create any new rules in regard to the practice of saving seeds for use from year to year, and does not outlaw, criminalize, or require any specific agricultural or growing practice.

Will P.L. 111-353 outlaw traditional organic growing methods? NO.
Section 105 of S.510 explicitly states that new produce safety standards cannot “include any requirements that conflict with or duplicate the requirements of the national organic program.”

Will P.L. 111-353 bring everyone who grows any food under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security? NO.
P.L. 111-353 maintains the same food safety jurisdiction that exists under current law.

Will P.L. 111-353 include new recordkeeping requirements for farms? NO.
P.L. 111-353 does not require that farms keep any new food safety-related records.

Will P.L. 111-353 charge farms and small businesses new registration fees? NO.
P.L. 111-353 does not charge registration fees of any kind.

Will P.L. 111-353 imprison people who sell raw milk? NO.
P.L. 111-353 does not establish any restrictions on the sale of raw milk. The bill merely directs the FDA to review existing regulatory hazard analysis and preventive control programs in existence, such as the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, before creating any new hazard analysis and preventive control rules.

Will P.L. 111-353 require American food producers or farmers to be subject to WHO rules, UN food safety standards, or Codex Alimentarius? NO.
P.L. 111-353 requires the FDA to come up with a plan to work with foreign countries that import food into the United States to ensure that Americans who purchase imported products can be assured of their safety, but does not require the adoption of any international standards. The bill also explicitly clarifies that dietary supplements remain subject to U.S. jurisdiction, not the Codex Alimenatrius.

Will P.L. 111-353 require farms and more facilities to register with the FDA? NO.
Under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, certain food businesses were considered “facilities” and had to register with FDA. Farms and restaurants were exempted. This definition is not changed in P.L. 111-353. If an entity does not need to register now, it will not need to register under P.L. 111-353.

Will P.L. 111-353 give the FDA new authority to inspect farms? NO.
P.L. 111-353 increases inspections for registered food facilities but does not hange FDA‟s jurisdiction over farms.


Anonymous said...

Top ten lies about Senate Bill 510

training on food safety said...

How can the government identify whether the food sold in the market is home grown or from small farms? I'm just thinking since both food sources were not covered by the modernization act.

Kevin Craig said...

Just because the government has no way of knowing something does not mean it won't make a "determination" or a "finding."

I admit I know little about the Act, but I suspect that if a home-grown product competes against a larger corporation, the larger corporation will seek to have the competitor brought under the Act. As long as the home-grown product only competes against other home-grown products, the govenrment will leave it alone, because no larger corporation will seek government reprisals.