Food Safety farm

Published on April 7th, 2009 | by Derek Markham

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5 Myths About Food Safety Act HR 875 Debunked

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There has been a lot of fear and hysteria surrounding the Food Safety Modernization Act (HR 875) coming from small growers, organic gardeners, and organic consumers alike. HR 875 was introduced by Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro, Connecticut, “to separate food safety regulation from drug and device approvals and to restore the balance that has long been missing at Health and Human Service.”
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“Under the proposal, FDA would be split into an agency responsible for food safety (the Food Safety Administration) and another responsible for regulation of drugs and devices. This move creates an agency solely focused on protecting the public through better regulation of the food supply. The Food Safety Modernization Act would establish a farm-to-fork system for protecting foods that are currently regulated by FDA, which has jurisdiction over 80 percent of the food supply”- DeLauro

Here’s are 5 myths about HR 875, debunked:

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

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, H.R. 875 is the only food safety legislation that has been supported by all the major consumer and food safety groups, including:

For more info on the myths of HR 875, see FactCheck.org. For background info on the bill, read Food and Water Watch’s Background on HR 875.

Image: Nicholas_T at Flickr under CC License

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!



  • Fanna

    Did you copy and paste those ‘myths’. I’m seeing more of those than the ‘they’re taking away our gardens’ emails in my inbox.

    “Myth: The bill would implement a national animal ID system.”

    That’s not what Section 210(d)(2)(D) says. Here’s that section:

    ” (d) Relationship to Other Requirements-

    (1) CONSISTENCY WITH EXISTING STATUTES AND REGULATIONS- To the extent possible, the Administrator should establish the national traceability system under this section to be consistent with existing statutes and regulations that require recordkeeping or labeling for identifying the origin or history of food or food animals.

    (2) EXISTING LAWS- For purposes of this subsection, the Administrator should review the following:

    (A) Country of origin labeling requirements of subtitle D of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (7 U.S.C. 1638 et seq.).

    (B) The Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of 1930 (7 U.S.C. 499a-t).

    (C) Country of origin labeling requirements of section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1340).

    (D) The National Animal Identification System as authorized by the Animal Health Protection Act of 2002 (7 U.S.C. 8301 et seq.).”

    Oh really, NAIS is an existing law? Since when? And what of Section 210(d)(1) that requires traceability for ‘food animals’:

    “to be consistent with existing statutes and regulations that require recordkeeping or labeling for identifying the origin or history of food or food animals.”

    And if you doubt that’s a reference to NAIS, then section 210(d)(2)(D) should clear up the confusion.

  • http://n/a Clayton Belland

    Sorry, can’t agree with you. Read the bill. Too vague. It could require regulations of all the items you listed.
    It should be shelved and at the very least re-written.

  • http://www.optimism.thorscave.com Thor

    Derek,
    Did you actually read the bill or are you just relaying something you were told?

    What if I quoted the bill to prove most (or all) your point wrong? Would you then write an article requesting all the readers to strongly oppose this bill?

  • http://naturalpapa.com Derek Markham

    From Food and Water Watch:

    “Here are a few things that H.R. 875 DOES do:
    *It addresses the most critical flaw in the structure of FDA by splitting it into 2 new agencies –one devoted to food safety and the other devoted to drugs and medical devices.
    *It increases inspection of food processing plants, basing the frequency of inspection on the risk of the product being produced – but it does NOT make plants pay any registration fees or user fees.
    * It does extend food safety agency authority to food production on farms, requiring farms to write a food safety plan and consider the critical points on that farm where food safety problems are likely to occur.
    * It requires imported food to meet the same standards as food produced in the U.S.

    And just as importantly, here are a few things that H.R. 875 does NOT do:
    *It does not cover foods regulated by the USDA (beef, pork, poultry, lamb, catfish.)
    *It does not establish a mandatory animal identification system.
    * It does not regulate backyard gardens.
    * It does not regulate seed.
    *It does not call for new regulations for farmers markets or direct marketing arrangements.
    * It does not apply to food that does not enter interstate commerce (food that is sold across state lines).
    * It does not mandate any specific type of traceability for FDA-regulated foods (the bill does instruct a new food safety agency to improve traceability of foods, but specifically says that recordkeeping can be done electronically or on paper).

    Several of the things not found in the DeLauro can be found in other bills – like H.R. 814, the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere Act, which calls for a mandatory animal identification system, or H.R. 759, the Food And Drug Administration Globalization Act, which overhauls the entire structure of FDA. H.R. 759 is more likely to move through Congress than H.R. 875.”

    This bill is about splitting the FDA to have a Food Safety Administration, not about the USDA, which does regulate raw agricultural products and would be able to establish an animal ID system.

    There are other bills being proposed right now, such as those mentioned above, which may affect the issues you bring up.

    If you want to quote the bill in a comment to prove your point, please do.

    The entire text of HR 875 is here: Food Safety Administration

  • Christie

    This bill is Monsanto’s wet dream, which should make us all SERIOUSLY skeptical! It’s no coincidence that this bill was introduced by DeLauro, whose husband is a lobbyist for the Monsanto company. I’ve read the bill, it’s disgusting. Even if it said kittens and fairies in every household, the fact that they want it as badly as they do should make us wary. These people suck!

  • http://www.griffin3.com/ Griffin3

    Actually, from my reading of the law itself, I understand:

    [1] It DOES call for new regulations for farmers markets or direct marketing arrangements.

    Sec 3 (9) Category 5 food establishment.—The term “category 5 food establishment” means a food establishment that stores, holds, or transports food products prior to delivery for retail sale.

    Sec 205 B 2 (5) Category 5 food establishments.—A category 5 food establishment shall—
    (A) have ongoing verification that its processes are controlled; and
    (B) be randomly inspected at least annually.

    Not really the most horrible of requirements, but, a farmer’s market IS required to comply with the new paperwork requirements, if the sell retail to the public. Same for your backyard garden. If you give away your endless zucchini, or trade in kind, I think that would get you away from the ‘retail’ category.

    [2] It DOES apply to food that does not enter interstate commerce (food that is sold across state lines).

    SEC. 406. Presumption.
    In any action to enforce the requirements of the food safety law, the connection with interstate commerce required for jurisdiction shall be presumed to exist.

    I don’t find any sort of reference to seeds or user fees, but the law (as written) does directly contradict two of the points you have made; and these are most likely true. But it is enough to make me cast a critical eye at the rest of these talking points, and wonder how many of them are the whole truth/nothing but the truth.

  • Sharon

    What is interesting about the “Myth and Fact” sheet is that it can be read here:

    http://delauro.house.gov/files/HR875_Myths_Facts1.pdf

    I believe that would be the “Press Release” from DeLauro’s office after her meeting March 16, 2009 with the “major consumer and food safety groups”.

    If I wanted to forward my agenda as a Congress Critter, I might do the same.

    Regardless if one likes or dislikes H.R. 875, it has brought discussion and awareness to the table (so to speak).

    Still too broad – why not a simple amendment excluding home gardens, etc.

    Shrug.

  • Pingback: Depleted Cranium » Blog Archive » OMG New Bill Could “Outlaw Organic Foods”

  • Dina

    Have you read the Food Safety Act Bill? Isn’t Congress woman DeLauro married to the chairman of Monsanto? I see no exceptions of regulations for size or quantities of agribusiness. This bill is created to stop the small farmer and make us all dependent on the worlds largest food industry. It’s bad!

  • http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org Erica at Food & Water Watch

    Sorry I didn’t have a chance to weigh in sooner. I had the opportunity to talk with Patrick Woodall, a policy expert here at Food & Water Watch. Here is what he told me regarding these concerns with the bill.

    Number one, Food & Water Watch shares some concerns with how the bill will affect small farmers, and is working with Rep. DeLauro’s office to improve the language, to make sure that the bill is friendlier to farmers (especially small-scale and organic producers). Representative DeLauro herself is planning to introduce an amendment to the same effect.

    To address some of the specific concerns people voiced here with the existing language:

    Griffin3: Farmers’ markets aren’t Category 5 establishments. Category 5 is, as you cited, “a food establishment that stores, holds, or transports food products prior to delivery for retail sale.” That means a plant, warehouse or distributor. But farmers’ markets do not hold or store food prior to retail sale–they are direct retail. There is no category in the bill covering farmers’ markets. As direct retail, they are under state, not federal, authority.
    The bill doesn’t set up any inspection standards for retail, which includes farmers’ markets and supermarkets. The standards are for establishments that have the food PRIOR to retail sale.
    In addition, CSAs are not regulated under Category 5 because they are not retail but direct marketing agreements, which are not subject to federal law.

    Fanna: The section you cited is not a veiled instruction to implement Animal ID. Firstly, FDA regulates only NON-LIVESTOCK food, so it has no authority over animal ID. USDA regulates livestock. The section you referenced is designed to provide guidance on designing a traceability system, because right now none exists. With last year’s Salmonella outbreak, FDA was completely unable to track the source of the outbreak to the Mexican peppers because there was no traceability system. In other words, FDA needs a program to find out where food came from in the event of an outbreak. In the section (2) EXISTING LAWS, FDA is advised to look at existing models when designing their traceability system (which is for non-animal foods). The operative word is “review”–they are not implementing any of these systems.
    (Incidentally, Food & Water Watch does not support mandatory animal ID.)
    This section, too, will not affect farmers’ markets because there is no traceability requirement for direct sales (e.g. farmers’ markets). In fact, it isn’t necessary, because in those cases consumers know who they are buying their food from.

    Hope this helped.

  • http://Web Holly

    Wow- this article is grossly irresponsible. Over and over it says “there is no language in the bill that”… However, there is also no language PROTECTING local farmers, etc, either. The exact language in the bill is “FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.” This is all encompassing… Please, readers, you can find the bill itself here http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-875

    As far as your statement that “Myth: The bill would implement a national animal ID system.” Well, this is TECHNICALLY correct but you failed to mention that that is truth under HR 759. I believe that a responsible writer would not have omitted that it is out there. HR 875 and HR 759 are very closely related.

    “Fact: No large agribusiness companies have expressed support for this bill.” HR 875 is sponsored by Dem Rosa DeLauro. It is important that readers understand that DeLauro received $180k is agribusiness donations. ALSO, food giant Monstanto is a client of her husband’s.

    This article is grossly misleading to readers and I think that the facts are not properly represented. Eatdrinkbetter.com needs to be more responsible for the information that they are giving to readers.

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