There has been a lot of hysteria floating around about HR 875, a bill being put through in congress to further regulate food safety. I have been hearing so much about this all month, and decided not to make up my mind until I had a chance to read all the information. A friend on a mothering site I frequent posted info the co-op she works for sent out, which I think really clarifies the issue:

HR 875: Myths & Facts

Over the last few days, we’ve been hearing a lot about a bill in Congress called HR 875 and there is a wave of false information and hysteria being created that suggests HR 875 would eliminate organic back yard farms, make it illegal to grow organic product except for big businesses, and eliminate farmers markets. Nothing is further from the truth. The bill is actually mean to be a “place marker bill”. (This is a term meant to describe a piece of unwritten or far too basic legislation that is put on a congressional calendar, so that a more appropriate bill can be written and come up sooner. It’s kind of like asking someone to hold your place in line at a big event.)

The following is a quick synopsis of the myths and facts surrounding HR 875. Our thanks to Claudia Reid, Program Director of CCOF (, and Food and Water Watch for this information. Berkshire Co-op Market is staying on top of this issue through our National Cooperative Grocers Association, and CCOF.  Food and Water Watch.

Myths and Facts: H.R. 875 – The Food Safety Modernization Act

MYTH: H.R. 875 “makes it illegal to grow your own garden” and would result in the “criminalization of the backyard Gardner.”

FACT: There is no language in the bill that would regulate, penalize, or shut down backyard gardens. This bill is focused on ensuring the safety of foods sold in supermarkets.

MYTH: H.R. 875 would mean a “goodbye to farmers markets” because the bill would “require such a burdensome complexity of rules, inspections, licensing, fees, and penalties for each farmer who wishes to sell locally – a fruit stand, at a farmers market.”

FACT: There is no language in the bill that would result in farmers markets being regulated, penalized any fines, or shut down.  Farmers markets would be able to continue to flourish under the bill.  In fact, the bill would insist that imported foods meet strict safety standards to ensure that unsafe imported foods are not competing with locally-grown foods.

MYTH: H.R. 875 would result in the “death of organic farming.”

FACT: There is no language in the bill that would stop organic farming. The National Organic Program (NOP) is under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Food Safety Modernization Act only addresses food safety issues under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

MYTH: The bill would implement a national animal ID system.

FACT: There is no language in the bill that would implement a national animal ID system. Animal identification issues are under the jurisdiction of the USDA. The Food Safety Modernization Act addresses issues under the jurisdiction of the FDA.

MYTH: The bill is supported by the large agribusiness industry.

FACT: No large agribusiness companies have expressed support for this bill. This bill is being supported by several Members of Congress who have strong progressive records on issues involving farmers markets, organic farming, and locally-grown foods. Also, HR 875 is the only food safety legislation that has been supported by all the major consumer and food safety groups, including:

* Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
* Center for Science in the Public Interest
* Consumer Federation of America
* Consumers Union
* Food & Water Watch
* The Pew Charitable Trusts
* Safe Tables Our Priority
* Trust for America’s Health

MYTH: The bill will pass the Congress next week without amendments or debate.

FACT: Food safety legislation has yet to be considered by any Congressional committee.