“S 510 is the most important food safety legislation in a generation. The Tester Amendment will make it even more effective, strengthening food safety rules while protecting small farmers and producers. We both think this is the right thing to do.”  Eric Schlosser & Michael Pollan

This is from Food Safety News this morning:

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and several other sustainable ag groups have been issuing a last round of action alerts to rally support for the Tester amendment.

“The bill takes important steps to improve corporate food safety rules but it is not appropriate for small farms and processors that sell to restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools, wholesalers and at farm stands and farmers markets,” said NSAC in its alert late last week.

NSAC asked its supporters to call Senators in support of the Tester provision to prevent “one-size-fits-all” regulations from being created.

jpgThe Senate is supposed to take up S 510 Wednesday morning (supported by a number of consumer groups, “Big ag” and grocery interests – arguably problematic). My bet is that if S 510 passes it is not going to pass without the Tester Amendment. However, with the Tester Amendment, the House is never going to take it up before the end of the year because of how broad the exclusion are and because S 510 does not have funding in it either. The House version does not have the former, but does have the later.

I supported the Tester Amendment (see link – October 1, The Tester – Hagen Amendment to S. 510 protects food safety and small farmers) as a mechanism to get the bill moved forward before the election when there actually was a real chance for passage by both Houses and a signature by the President. However, I have very strong reservations about the Amendment on food safety grounds.

Both the House and Senate bills already exclude sales “to restaurants, food coops, groceries, … and at farm stand and farmers markets” from most of the provisions of the bills that primarily relate to large manufacturers. Excluding sales to schools and wholesalers really makes no sense at all. Setting schools aside for a moment (although I think we all should care about the safety of the food our kid’s get), excluding sales to wholesalers is a huge food safety loophole.

It was selling spinach wholesale from a small, organic farm that caused the 2006 spinach outbreak. Twenty-five acres of an organic spinach farm sold to a wholesaler, who sold to a manufacturer. The fecal contamination with E. coli O157:H7 was introduced at the spinach farm and amplified at manufacturer.

My feeling is that if a farm seller (small or large) puts his or her product into the wholesale market, they have to play by the same food safety rules as the large players. When it comes to food safety – “one size should fit all.” 

We missed a once in a decade opportunity.  Once the Republicans take control of the House in January, food safety legislation is, well, toast.