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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

S. 510 – If it is not dead, it is on life support.

In 1999, I was being encouraged to run for the US Senate against then Senator Gorton.  As part of my “vetting,” I met with Senators Daschle, Boxer and Reid in the minority leaders office.  Under the watchful gaze of LBJ, I was asked why I was considering giving up a law practice.  My answer was simply, that I wanted to move legislation on food safety.  After being part of the effort to pass legislation, seeing Senator Reid explain why that legislation is dead makes me wonder what would have happened had I run.

sen.reid.jpgMR. REID: MR. PRESIDENT, WE HAVE WORKED FOR THIS ENTIRE CONGRESS ON FOOD SAFETY. I’VE HAD A NUMBER OF PEOPLE FROM NEVADA, ABOUT A DOZEN PEOPLE FROM COME FROM NEVADA WHO HAVE TALKED ABOUT THEIR FOOD-BORNE ILLNESSES. CHILDREN WHOSE GROWTH STUNTED THEIR ENTIRE LIFE. ONE YOUNG WOMAN WHO SPENT 11 MONTHS IN THE HOSPITAL AS A RESULT OF EATING SOME TAINTED SPINACH. ALL OVER AMERICA THIS IS HAPPENING. WE HAVE FOOD SAFETY LAWS THAT ARE INADEQUATE AND CAUSING PEOPLE TO GET SICK BECAUSE THE FOOD ISN’T CHECKED CLOSELY ENOUGH. SENATORS DURBIN, HARKIN, HIM A, CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE HAVE WORKED HARD TO GET SOMETHING DONE. I TALKED TO SENATOR McDONALD. HE THINKS — McDONALD. HE THINKS SOMETHING YOU — McCONNELL, HE THINKS THAT SOMETHING SHOULD BE DONE. BUT — WE SPENT A WHOLE CONGRESS ON THIS AND AT THE LAST MINUTE, HE COMES IN AND LIKELY WE’RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO GET THIS DONE BEFORE WE GO HOME FOR OUR — BEFORE THE ELECTIONS. WHAT A SAD THING FOR OUR COUNTRY.PEOPLE ARE DYING AS A RESULT OF THESE PROBLEMS WITH FOOD. AND IT’S JUST A SHAME THAT WE CAN’T GET THIS DONE. THE PROCEDURES IN THE SENATE — WE HAVE ALMOST 400 MATTERS THAT HAVE PASSED THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND WE CAN’T DEAL WITH THEM HERE BECAUSE THE REPUBLICANS SAY NO. THAT’S NOT THE WAY TO DO BUSINESS. IN YEARS PAST THESE THINGS WOULD HAVE GONE THROUGH REALLY VERY EASILY. I THINK THAT WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT SOMETHING AS IMPORTANT AS THIS AND I THINK THE FOCUS SHOULD BE WHERE IT DESERVES TO BE, ON THE PERSON THAT’S HOLDING THIS UP. IT’S TOO BAD. THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF EXCUSES, BUT EXCUSES DON’T DO THE TRICK, MR. PRESIDENT. THESE PEOPLE THAT COME TO SEE ME WHO HAVE BEEN DEATHLY ILL, ALL THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED. THE LEGISLATION WOULD DO THAT. IT’S BIPARTISAN IN NATURE. SHOULD BE ABLE TO BE COMPLETED.

  • Sam

    So, I guess we can thank the republicans for the next big recall. After all, what significance are a few corpses when we are talking about profit?

  • Jack DeCoster on the Atlantic website:

    Timeline of Shame: Decades of DeCoster Egg Factory Violations:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/09/timeline-of-shame-decades-of-decoster-egg-factory-violations/63059/

    (Mind the word wrap in the link.)

  • JOE SNYDER

    PIGEONHOLED…..BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER…WHERE IS THE CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN ?
    THE AUDACITY OF HOPE !
    THE REALITY OF DEATH…..FROM THEIR COLD DEAD HANDS…HELP !!!
    WEAPONS OF MASS PRODUCTION
    PURE..NATURAL…ORGANIC…NUTRITIOUS…BUT MAY KILL YOU OR MAKE YOU SO SICK THAT YOU WISH YOU WERE DEAD
    FROM FARM TO FORK….JUST A MONTH LATER AND FROM AROUND THE GLOBE
    IS THIS FOOD SAFE…IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE WORD IS…IS !
    OR WAS !

  • roy costa

    You are right Bill, we know how to prevent these things, its simply pollution, thanks very much, We have the tools and capabilities we just do not have commitment across the board, this is not the America I think I know. What we have here is an ugly, artificial substitute of what is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Due in some measure to apathy by the citizens of this country, who should right now be up in arms.
    I think a bunch of us ought to to go up there and protest on the steps of the capital, its time the American people heard the truth about what is happening to their public health protection and who and what is to blame.
    I hope the cries of the sick in agony reach the halls of congress. I am now finding myself getting righteously angry. We need a Food Safety Rally and Demonstration 60’s style!!!

  • dangermaus

    If the supporters of FSMA would have supported the Tester Amendment, I bet S510 probably would have passed. Instead, supporters had to insist that the FDA get the authority to regulate ALL food production in the country, not caring that it would have been used to put many of the few small-scale farmers in this country out of business. I don’t think any of these personal tragedies that you’re exploiting came from small-scale farmers, and they were mostly from the big agribusiness outfits that supported this bill. Thank goodness it was stopped.
    Tell me this, wasn’t HACCP supposed to take care of this? How’d that work out?
    I think this web page is a grinder for your business, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • No, Sam, it would be more appropriate to thank the people who will have caused it. They are the same people who caused this big egg recall–the FDA and/or FSIS AND one or more substantial producers in the global industrial food system. That will be the case because self and media styled “food safety advocates” don’t hold the FDA and FSIS accountable for their individual and collective failure to use their existing extraordinary powers to appropriately regulate food NOT crops.
    Thanks, Pat Tice, for the link.
    Who is this “we,” roy costa? I doubt it includes the 157 local, regional & national grassroots organizations that support the Tester-Hagan amendments or any of us, growers; packers; processors & distributors in the local, healthy food movement.
    Thanks, dangermaus, for sharing your opinion about Tester-Hagan. I would love to discuss that with you. Please write me at healthyfoodcoalition@gmail.com.

  • Mary

    Two questions:
    1. Is there any proof that “big agribusiness” supports or supported these bills?
    2. Would either of these bills have resulted in regulations that would have been overly burdensome to small farmers?
    Facts and specifics please, not exaggerations.
    Thank you.

  • Doreen

    Yes, there is plenty of evidence that this bill -not could- but will destroy small farms and small marketers. First of all, you have got to understand that this bill would give three agencies the power to write regulations and enforce through fines, penalties and quarantines, any violations they had “reason to believe” might exist.
    The FDA, FSIS, USDA, have ALL failed to do their job that they already have the authority to do. Instead, they want more power to stretch their authority onto the actual small family farms, who cannot fight bureaucrats because of a lack of funding and lacking a ‘legal team’ to advocate for them. Big biz is highly favored by the regulatory regime, and small business has been nearly destroyed by them.
    HACCP on the farm is a death sentence to independent agriculture.
    Aside from how the “bi-partisan” bill ended up, it will still end in committee, so if they did pass this onerous legislation, by the time it got through committee, the Food Destruction Agency, and Uncle Sam Destroying Agri-CULTURE would have had full power to control everything you eat.
    If the FDA and CBP and FSIS actually inspected what they have the authority to inspect, there wouldn’t be the problems we have in the commercial, consolidated, industrialized, concentrated food supply.
    Surely people are smart enough to decide what they want to eat if they are given the choice. Accurate information and reasoned dialogue allow people to make their own healthful choices. Fearmongering, and terrorism on the farm will NOT help you to be ‘more safe’ in what you consume.
    I wish 510, 2749, 875, 759 and all the rest would be impaled. Let people have real food, without GMO’s, additive, nanoparticles and excitotoxins, (all safe according to the FDA) and they can choose for themselves what they want to eat.
    -off rant- Thanks!

  • Marymary

    I’m sorry, but I don’t feel as if my questions have been answered.
    What specific provisions of this bill would be harmful to small operators and in what ways? Simply stating that HACCP will kill small farmers is not being specific. HACCP isn’t perfect, but I fail to see how knowing and understanding the critical control points in the production process and taking measures to maintain temperature and sanitation, dealing appropriately with employee health issues, preventing cross contamination, etc. would be unduly burdensome on anyone who is in the food business, whether small farmers, restaurateurs, grocery store owners or large agribusiness operations. Anyone who wants to be in the food business should want to know about foodborne illnesses and should want to know what precautions to take to prevent foodborne illness. Large operator or small, I am always skeptical of anyone who claims that following basic food sanitation rules is too burdensome.
    Maybe I’m misconstruing what you are saying Doreen, but it seems to me that you and Dangermaus are unduly fearful of *any* regulation.

  • Ivy Lenarz

    It’s so interesting how large corporations skate by, selling contaminated food, yet the FDA has plenty of time to shut down producers who have never had a single case of food-borne illness.
    http://www.newswithviews.com/Hannes/doreen107.htm
    I am sick, alright. Sick of the FDA actually stating that I do not have the right to choose what I want to eat, sick of federal agents going in (with guns, no less!) into food co-ops to “bust” people for making their own food choices.
    Why does the FDA need guns anyway? Is someone going to throw a rotten egg at them?
    The name of the game is NOT safe food. It is all about CONTROL.
    Soylent Green, anyone?

  • Doreen

    Marymary,
    HACCP is not just about understanding that there are points of critical importance, it is a 50 page guideline to write up a plan, followed by an approval process by a HACCP certifier, and necessitates a HACCP team to oversee the plan and any future impact of further regulations, certification processes or improvements. Yes, any “Joe” can write on eup, but try dealing with the bureaucracy involved when you are an owner worker, and HACCP was NEVER designed to be used the way the FDA is using it to begin with. HACCP had literal kill points and was designed for space travel food. Not to be used on farms.
    What it amounts to is another regulatory dividing line between the consolidated, commercial, industrialized and corporatized food supply and the independent, personally accountable, real person with poop on their boots. The have and the have nots, if you will. You will have not if you allow 510 to go through. You will not have a choice, and the Global Food Safety Initiative, which desires to have everything irradiated, certified, audited inspected and licensed will be your only choice. WalMart for everyone all the time. Not a good thing for life, and definitely not a good thing for national security.
    I think what we have to do is recognize that the FDA already has massive authority, as does the USDA, and they are not performing the inspections on imports, (FDA, less than 1%!) or the establishments that they have the authority to conduct, and the problems that exist are because they have not been doing their job. The last thing they need is further authority to fail to do their job and the ability to penalize people for paperwork.
    This bill is so cumbersome that it is difficult at best to get a definitive idea of it’s effects at best. It’s very tough to relate the effects that are somewhat easily seen to people who aren’t familiar with actually producing food. When you understand that all legislation really empowers agencies to write regulations that have been almost preternaturally designed for over 50 years to destroy the little guy with paperwork, insurance, and reduced access to markets, you will begin to understand the real problem with our food supply. Those who grow food they feed to their own babies don’t want to grow toxic swill. Corporations looking for monopolistic market share are interested in eliminating all competition and getting the cheapest product, and they have the money to buy congressional favors quite readily as well….and their attorneys and lobbyists enable them to sell toxic swill.

  • Marymary

    Sorry Doreen, but this fish ain’t bitin’. I know what HACCP is. I actually have worked in food safety. I think that you and Dangermaus and others like you exaggerate the likely effects of food safety legislation just to avoid any regulartion, period. Frankly, I’m capable of growing my own vegetables organically and I’m also capable of making the choice of where to get my food. The “poop on their boots” crowd wins no points from me simply because they have poop on their boots, especially since the poop is also in their raw milk, on their produce, under the fingernails that packed their baked goods for sale at the farmers’ market, etc.
    Frankly, I also know how small operators work. I know how locally owned restaurants are some of the worst in terms of food safety because the owners, despite alleged training and certification, have no desire to implement food safety practices and have no understanding of even the basics of food safety and sanitation, let alone HACCP or anything remotely rigorous. The small operators will look you in the eye while they sell you food prepared in kitchens with ill employees, by unwashed hands, that was stored in malfunctioning refrigerators, etc. I don’t see small and local as automatically being honest and safe, because I have seen first hand how small and local too often means unsafe, unsanitary conditions and dishonest and defiant operators.