Food Safety Update

S510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, was expected to be taken up by the Senate just after Memorial Day but has been pushed back due to the Gulf oil spill.

The Wedge is following debate about this bill from many sources. Blogs from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), a farm and foods advocate in Washington, DC., provides ongoing dialog about the debate and the issues that are meaningful to those of us interested in food safety.

NSAC considers this bill "the first significant effort to increase food safety in decades." It will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new enforcement authority over industry and will also have a significant impact on farmers. NSAC considers S510 an improvement over the House version H2749, but is still working to make certain organic and sustainable agriculture have a voice in the process.

Once S510 passes the House and Senate, the two bills will be reconciled in the form of a final bill. There will be a public comment period and the Wedge will be following and passing along new information as it becomes available.

Here are a few things you should know about:

The managers' amendment is a package of numerous individual amendments agreed to by both sides in advance. The managers are the majority and the minority members who manage the debate on a bill for their side. The managers' amendment includes giving FDA flexibility in implementing regulations for small and mid-sized farms and instructs the FDA to have an open rule-making process to determine which on-farm processing activities, subject to current FDA bio-terrorism regulation, are of low risk and therefore do not need to fall under the new regulatory requirements in the bill.

The bill contains language to coordinate with the USDA, with respect to organic agriculture and directs FDA to create rules that are appropriate to the scale and diversity of the farm, consider conservation and environmental standards established by other federal agencies, that do not conflict with organic certification standards and that prioritize high risk crops.

The Committee is still negotiating over two amendments offered by Senator Tester (D-MT) that would exempt farm and non-farm facilities with gross sales of less than $500,000 from requirements to write comprehensive food safety plans and traceback and record keeping requirements, and would exempt farms that direct market at least half their product from new FDA produce farm regulations.

Senator Feinstein (D-CA) has a bill pending as an amendment to S510 banning the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in all food and beverage containers. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups have come out strongly against the measure and a vote on Feinstein's amendment is a vote that many Senators would prefer not to make.

A third amendment, sponsored by Senator Brown (D-OH) would expand traceback and record keeping requirements in the bill, but would ease those requirements with respect to farms. That amendment has been subject to negotiations for some time now without reaching a conclusion.

For more information:

General information about food safety and recalls: