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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Over at Crooks and Liars – More on Food Safety and HR 875

Nonny Mouse wrote "Monsanto and HR 875, Take Two"

To set the record straight:

There is no language in HR 875 that would regulate, penalize, or shut down backyard gardens or ‘criminalize’ gardeners; the bill focuses on ensuring the safety of food in interstate commerce.

Farmer’s markets would not be regulated, fined, or shut down, and would, in fact, benefit from strict safety standards applied to imported food to ensure that unsafe imported food doesn’t compete with locally grown produce.

The bill would not prohibit or interfere with organic farming, or mandate the use of any chemicals or types of seeds. The National Organic Program (NOP) is under the jurisdiction of the USDA. HR 875 addresses food safety issues and falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA.

Monsanto and any other large agribusiness company had no part whatsoever in drafting this bill, and Rep. DeLauro’s husband and his company do no lobbying on this issue.

HR 875 has nothing to do with any national animal ID system, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA, and not the FDA.

This isn’t a done deal – the bill hasn’t yet even been considered by any Congressional committee, nevermind seen any debate or proposed amendments. There is no ‘plot’ to ram this through Congress and into law.

For those who are backyard gardners, farmers and growers who sell direct to customers, and folks who sell at farmers markets, certainly some of the provisions on records keeping will necessarily need to be less than for business who put thier product into the broader stream of commerce – organic or not so.  The goal behind this and other food safety legislation is to try and make a complex national and international food supply be more traceable and more trasparent.  One only needs to look at the recent peanut butter fiasco to see how one relativey small player (<1% of peanuts processed) can cause nearly 4,000 products to be recalled, $1.5 billion in losses, as well as 700 illnesses and nine deaths.

Bottom line, food needs to be safe.  All producers – small or large – need to have standards.  But, they also need to be rational, based on risk and be fairly enforced.  Large producers should not be cut slack because they have lobbyists.  Small producers should not have relaxed standards because they are small.  If you produce food that does not involve a handshake with your customer (a direct sale), you wll necessarily require more oversight because the risks are much greater that a small mistake can bloom into a nasty outbreak.

  • Bix

    Your last paragraph is on target.
    Regarding small producers: I do not see the harm, and I see the benefit, in having people who sell food register their business and take a class in food safety. If the cost for registration is a problem, that can be fixed.
    I don’t know anyone who has discussed food safety legislation rationally who hasn’t arrived at the need for scalable requirements (for producers), and risk-based oversight (for the government).
    Risk-based oversight means that more resources (i.e. inspections) are focused where risk is greater. Risk is greater in, for example, high-distribution networks (Peanut Corp.), not in low-distribution networks (one neighbor selling his corn to surrounding neighbors). Risk-based oversight is smart, lean (cost-efficient), and fair. The legislation proposed is risk-based.
    This controversy has shown me why, one reason at least, there aren’t better food safety laws.