Lunchtime poll – S.510: Food Safety Modernization Act
November 30th, 2010
11:45 AM ET
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The U.S. Senate has just voted, 73-26, in favor of S.510 – the Food Safety Modernization Act. The bill offers a sweeping overhaul of the nation's current food safety regulations, empowering the FDA with oversight of mandatory recalls of potentially contaminated food, requirements for food producers to develop written food safety plans, accessible by the government in case of emergency and implementation of a food tracing system.

Get the basics of the bill and more on the vote.

While supporters and opponents of the bill agree that food safety is paramount - especially in light in this past summer's egg-based salmonella contamination that sickened over 1,600 consumers - there is considerable disagreement about the level of federal involvement that should be allowed.

On which side of the fence do you fall?

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Filed under: Business and Farming News • Buzz • Farms • FDA • Food Politics • Health News • Lunchtime Poll • News • Recalls • S. 510 • Tainted Food

soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Common Sense

    Regardless of your opinion on the Food Safety Modernization Act,
    ... one very obvious fact continues to be that big government programs like this are always doomed to failure because the knee-jerk reaction of politicians is to "dictate" instead of "cooperate" with the private sector through a sensible combination of punishments & incentives.

    Rarely, if ever, does the government attempt SMART solutions like financial $$ incentives to reward the A++ Food manufacturers for clean inspections, and hefty fines $$$ for the D– Food manufactures for poor inspections. Something like that could be cost-neutral in that the fines for the bad guys could be rewards for the good guys.

    But no, the government never tries wise things like that - with the big government types, their idiotic solutions are usually something that looks a lot more like a DICTATOR, yet never actually acoomplishes the goal for which the legislation was intended.

    My 2 ยข anyway...

    January 6, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  2. Janice

    Less regulation is needed. Testings can be done by the state and effective journalism can help increase awareness, but too much power in anyone's hands leads to a police state. Nobody has the power to raid or shut down a business, especially if the business is in the interests of the people. However, there are practices and goods that are questionable, such as those who are in charge of our water supply, larger food industries, chemtrails, and drugs, that need to be investigated and exposed because they seem to put our lives at risk. If the government and large corporations make things and sell things inconspicuously, why is it their business to regulate what we do? I think it is more important that the average citizen and those who are in government positions question and regulate what bigger companies and government are doing, instead of small farms and stores. This is similar to the TSA, where they practice power and humiliation over the average citizen and don't use more civilized approaches to safety.

    December 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  3. Charlotte

    To the extent that the Federal Government has jurisdiction over interstate commerce, this means that any food products that cross state lines can and should be regulated for safety, quality, truth-in-advertizing by the Feds. Within state borders, this can be left to the States but I have no problem with certain minimum federal standards being applied for medum-to-large producers even if they do not export across state lines. It's ridiculous for the fear-mongers to claim that this extends to your own backyard garden or Grandma's pickles (unless she applies for and obtains a business license and sells her pickles as a commercial enterprise).

    December 1, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
  4. Duncan

    I find it comical, and also disappointing, that people truly believe there is some free market power left. We no longer have 40 different companies competing for our business. Most industries are down down to just a few corporations. As we all know, 80% of the food on the shelves come from just 4 corporations. One day that will be 3.

    Those 4 corporations do not compete in the same way as they used to. They co-operate in many ways. Don't like the food from 1 corporation? Good luck buying the same foods from someone more reputable.

    What these corporations are doing to foods to make them cheaper, easier to make/grow is borderline criminal.

    December 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Duncan, you said: "As we all know, 80% of the food on the shelves come from just 4 corporations"

      If that's true, do you have some data or a link, which proves that assertion?
      Thank You.

      January 6, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  5. Duncan

    Small farms can be left alone.. why? because 1 outbreak or bad publicity will shut down the company. They don't have the money or resources to stay in business if they screw up. Having them come under ANY regulation will allow the big corporations to add changes to the bills which will destroy the small farms.

    This is why the food corporations wrote this bill and approved it. It is a gateway to stopping the spread of local foods.

    December 1, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  6. John

    For those of you under the illusion that America has or cares about safe food, you only need to know that your electronics products are manufactured in a much cleaner environment than the environment in which your food is processed. Over the past 20 years, the electronics industry (yes, your tv, cell phone, computer) has discovered that contamination causes product failure. The food industry continues to bury its head in the sand and America goes along with it. Good luck with your next breakfast!

    December 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  7. Julie

    The federal government has not been doing a good job in any of its regulatory agencies. We saw this with the oil spill earlier this year, and it's increasingly apparent with reports of foodborne illness and the lack of inspections performed by the FDA. There have been incidents where FDA inspectors have seen evidence of unsafe food practices and allowed these facilities to remain open. Check out this story from USA Today that details repeated violations from a company that supplies food for school lunches: The new law makes sense because the FDA should have the authority to issue a recall, but it's the implementation or enforcement of these bills that cause me concern – because the regulations already in place are not being enforced. A few corporations have taken over the food system in this country, lobbying politicians the whole way, and the system has gotten out of control. Until America changes its philosophy of bigger, cheaper, faster, easier, then the problems will persist because it has now become a part of our culture. The new law is fine, but I can't trust the FDA to actually do its job – if it even has the capacity to do so.

    December 1, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  8. Jim

    The federal government is not capable of managing safety in food better than it already does. More than enough laws and regulations are already in place at both the federal and state levels. It takes one person to not wash there hands after going to the bathroom to get hundreds sick at salad bars across the country. That is the inherent risk with any food production system. Safety is a false way this S510 bill is being proposed to the American citizens, and I mean citizens. Bill after bill this democrat controlled house, senate and oval office have been passing are nothing more than the means to establish control over the population under the lies of economic benefits, medical improvements, safer food and better security from Islamic extremists. Fortunately next year their power is weakened, but the damage will be ramping up. Us, the CITIZENS of the US of A have less freedom and more surveillance performed on us. Don't think that I'm a crazy conspiracy theorist. I'm a student of history. This has been done before in other great societies that begin to fail from the majority of the citizen's not doing, voting and saying what must be said, the truth and that personal responsibility with accountability is key to long term sustainability of a prosperous nation worth living in. I know it is easy to let minor things that don't matter pass into law. However, each passing of a new law makes it easier for the next and the next and so on to take more freedoms away. When does it stop? How many rights will be taken away and how many dollars will be taken from your hard earned income? Before you condemn what I have wrote, please review the history of nations that were once prosperous than fell out of prosperity. We are allowing elected officials poorly educated in history to do these same mistakes. Or may be even worse, they are not poorly educated in history and are using this as a play book? I urge you to listen to your own heart after learning about the histories of other nations whose citizens suffered from these same type of scenarios.

    November 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  9. LS

    What good is a food safety bill to those who are losing their unemployment benefits at midnight tonight and won't be able to buy groceries soon?

    November 30, 2010 at 6:48 pm |
    • Charlotte

      Maybe they can hire on as food inspectors.

      December 1, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  10. starwynn

    Honestly, we already HAVE regulations in place! Why not just do their job with the ones already standing?

    November 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  11. Rmi

    There has to be some regulation but to put an increased amount of regulations on small producers will only cause more of them to go out of business. That will only make the big producers bigger and they will have the money to buy their politicians. As a small producer it may be time to throw in the towel.

    November 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Ani

    All food should be labeled as to source by Numbers and Letters: GM0 vs Organic, Irradiation, fertilizers, pesticides, Country of Origin, etc., and LET THE BUYER DECIDE what they will support and what they won't. We already choose NOT to eat GMO foods (corn, soy, and all franken-foods be they fresh vegetables or meats). We already do NOT eat canned goods or anything with preservatives. We are growing more and more of our own food and only purchasing from known local markets. Instead of spending $ billions more on Fed. & State Regulations, wouldn't that money be better spent on sponsoring Vertical crops raised locally in major metro areas to provide income, jobs, education and better nutrition? Monsanto and other Mega-Corps are hi-jacking our food sources, our health and our money. We vote with our pocket book. The best think Congress could do is to give back all their lobbying bribe money from franken-food producers and allow the American entrepreneurial spirit to prevail in creating new cleaner food, cities and societies based and grown locally. Thanks!

    November 30, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • Cathy Glorius

      You have said it beautifully. Thank You !

      December 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  13. Billy Bob Beefcake

    Read upton sinclair's the jungle

    November 30, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  14. :)

    Ideally, we would all eat from locally-grown sustainable farms that are run by good people who are concerned about the health and safety of others and therefore will hold themselves to the highest standards....wishfull thinking?

    November 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  15. LlamaLlamaDuck

    Interesting to note that WV just had a law put into effect last week where it's residents are no longer able to grow their own gardens or hunt their own food without reporting it to the state and paying tax on the right to feed yourself off your own property. Evidently the governor wanted to make sure his constituency couldn't "opt out" of government interference in the private sector (which is what retail sales and food production are, if you're honest with yourself). Self-sufficiency used to be admirable–something to attain to. The government is falling all over itself to make sure that can't happen.

    Wake up, America. They don't want you to take care of yourselves. They don't want you to be responsible, reliable, functioning citizens capable of managing your own life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They want you to need them...bad enough that you'll never get rid of them, that you'll pay them whatever it takes to take care of you because you can no longer take care of yourselves.

    Those who would sacrifice liberty for security do not deserve–nor will receive–either.

    November 30, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
    • Jim

      Well said.... sadly, but honestly.

      November 30, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
      • Cathy Glorius

        The FDA is so saturated with big AG people running it , there is no way that this is a food safety bill and I know that you are aware of this. This bill has hardly been mentioned in the news. Why??? Most of us know about Monsanto and what they have done to this country's food supply. If this truly was a bill for the people of this country , companies like Monsanto would be stomping. Look at where all the recalls have come from??? Large ag run farms. If you read this bill it is very vague. To much power to give to the FDA that can't do it's job now.

        December 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • Charlotte

      Please back up this post with some facts. What is the name and number of this alleged bill in West Virginia? Your statements sound like over-the-top fear-mongering and I would like to actually read the statute you are referring to. I did a lot of searching for it online and came up with zilch. Please post the information so people can read it.

      December 1, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  16. Jerv

    Anytime politicians start using words like "reform" "overhaul" "deregulation" or "privatize" that raises a red flag for me. I honestly do not think that they have our best interests in mind any longer.

    November 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
  17. LaRofromNorthAL

    Federal compliance costs make small-scale farming near impossible. Do we really want all our food to have to meet the bland generic standards of AgriCorp ? I personally prefer my food to come from small local producers where possible & don't want them using the same practices that you see in big food production.

    This is just more regulation where it is not needed, put in place to make it look like DC got something done.

    November 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  18. Margret

    I think a large part of the responsibility for food safety needs to be on the consumer. If we refuse to buy CAFO meats, soybeans/corn/sugar beets sprayed with Roundup and other chemically-laced garbage, agribusinesses will HAVE to change what they do or be forced out of business. So please buy locally, buy organic as much as possible, raise some of your own food, and hit large corporate "farms" in the pocketbook. It will serve us all, in that our food supply will become safer and more nutritious. It will also help the small farmers stay in business. Win/win.

    November 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • Duncan

      Whilst I 100% agree with you.. it is unfortunate that the large corporations goal is to stop the consumer from doing this. They know that the local movement is one of the biggest threats to their business and they will do all they can to destroy, or control local farms. This bill was written and approved by the food corporations for a reason. That reason is either in the detail that can be exploited or in future lobbying to tweak the bill to hamper local farms.

      December 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • Charlotte

      But wouldn't the ability to refuse to buy certain products be predicated on the consumer actually knowing about them? We cannot refuse to buy it if we don't have information on a label that tells us what has been done to it. So at least regulations need to be in place that require full disclosure about the meat, produce, dairy, eggs and processed foods that are available for purchase so the consumer can make an informed decision.

      December 1, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  19. naksuthin

    We don't need more Big government regulations on the food we eat.
    If people or pets are poisoned by shoddy peanut companies, contaminated lettuce and bad tomatoes, adulterated dogfood... let the free market weed out the bad guys.
    The best cure for unsafe products is to let people start getting sick or start dying from eating contaiminated food. Then no one will buy the products and the producers will be punished.
    Let's follow the example of countries like India, China and Mexico.
    When you get sick or your loved ones die from eating tainted stop buying that product. The producer get's punished because no one will buy his product.
    Problem solved!

    Read more:

    November 30, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
    • TL

      Really? You really think we should just let people die?
      I desperately want to believe this is sarcasm, but small nagging part of me thinks you're being serious. That small nagging part of me thinks you're probably also against healthcare reform because you believe there will be "death panels" and that somehow you don't see that as contradictory. But I certainly don't want to start THAT debate.

      November 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • foodscientist

      So.... i think this is one of the worst responses I have ever seen on the internet. It is apparent that this person knows NOTHING about how the food industry in this country works. Most food (if you can even call it that anymore) comes from the same place. There are only 13 major slaughterhouses in America. So by you logic after you eat tainted meat you will think "hmm, so now that I ate that hamburger that made me sick everyone should stop eating, well... all fast food, all CAFO meats, and any veg. that was any wear near the animal that was sick."

      Ya that will happen. Did people stop eating at Taco bell after they had tainted veg? NO
      Did people stop eating cookie dough when people died from it and the company TO THIS DAY has not found the reason? NO!
      People didn't stop eating at Wendy's when they though fingers where in the food.
      So what makes you think people will educate themselves to find out what is happening with their food when most of them refuse to read the labels?
      It is INSANE that a company can send out food that can kill you because the government has no power to stop it. I am happy the bill passed the senate.

      November 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
      • Jim

        You are wrong. Your response is the worst. If you think that government will fix your problems, then you are hopefully mistaken. I wish a body of some government can fix all things without removing freedoms. But to make everyone do what the few consider right 100% requires removing freedoms. Besides, do you know any of the government issued FDA specifications written for food manufacturing? Do you understand the term food manufacturing? There are so many parts per million allowed in processed foods in this country by our government for things like rat excrement, bodies of rates, bugs, oils from machinery, wearing of stainless steel components, etc. Government has nothing to fix here. The problem is artificially created by government. People are human. Humans make mistakes. Unless all food is 100% produced by anything other than people, the food manufacturing system will be imperfect thus mistakes are an eventuality. Please, for me and my fellow Americans, which hopefully includes you, do some research and reflection on this. We are all people who all deserve to be free. Free capital markets versus strict government control, what is better? Freedom or no freedom? What would you prefer? Is walking into a shop to purchase whatever you determine is best for you and is what you want is ideal? Or is buying only what some one else miles away who never met your who predetermined what was appropriate for you to buy is ideal? Be your own person and focus on your own freedom and others around you like your family and friends, the people you love. Others can chose whatever they want and if it was wrong for them, that was unfortunate. But choice is what is the difference between being free and being controlled.

        November 30, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
      • eater

        Jim you have no idea how competition works. If the government stops regulating one thing then all the companies will jump on it so they can save money and compete with the other companies doing it. Try buying a variety of sweet products at a grocery store without high fructose corn syrup in them, its impossible. Regulation is the key to being able to buy WHAT YOU WANT, non-regulation will flood the shelves with garbage just like in China and buying quality products will be a luxury reserved for people living in big cities where expensive specialty stores can survive.

        December 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  20. Cole

    It's almost too easy to predict that this will not work out; it's an overreaction with good intentions but bad understanding and execution. The worst part of the bill is how they pretty much treat large and small operations the same way, when resources, methods and processes differ. That's like treating a large corporation the same way as you would a small business. Where' the common sense here?

    To me this is just a bill for fluff. When election time comes, the politician can say, "Look, I helped make food safer!" No, you didn't. You just made life more difficult for everyone without it benefiting anyone (except the lawyers). An effective bill needs teeth that's ready to take a serious bite at the distribution company and not just the farm.

    November 30, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  21. bagrman

    There is already regulations that are not being enforced and companies that are not being inspected. This is just an attack on small producers by the big guys to get a little more control over what you eat.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  22. charlie

    These regulations only help big industry. This bill is a sham which will only hurt the current small farm, food movement. We see time and time again, regulations only help the big companies, as small farms can not buy the technologies o r equipment to keep up with new regulations. We have too much trust in our government to provide us with safety.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
    • TL

      Charlie, did you actually read the bill? Please point out an instance where it will benefit large corporations and hurt small farms, as I've read it and don't see where that will happen. I also don't see where it demands expensive equipment, so if you can point that out too, that'd be great.

      November 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
      • J

        TL, the paperwork alone will kill the small farmers. You have no concept of reality.

        December 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  23. T

    The government should have ability to recall any food items if unsafe. They should be able to see if both large and small companies are following some basic rules, such as complying with recall standards and basic quality checks.

    I also think third party audits should be made public. These audits should focus less on paperwork and more on day to day operations for food safety. There could be a website that list all products that have been audited and people could check to see if the food and company has passed these outside audits and who passed them. We should also have independent third parties of both food and non food organizations audit the auditing companies and those grades made public as well.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Charlotte

      The local newspaper always reports on the health inspection results for local restaurants, I don't see why there couldn't be an equally public report card regularly provided for food inspection of non-restaurant food providers, with a detailed list of any violations found and an update when (or if) they are resolved.

      December 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
      • YEA RIGHT

        There is no such thing as FREEDOM, PROTECTION, AND SAFE FOOD! Just in case you've been sleeping in a cave for a couple of decades allow me to be the barrier of bad news...We (the people) will soon be one. There would be one government, one world, and one way. The government, president, and other paid elected officials sold their soul a long time ago. So but of course buying safe food is not a priority for them. Bills, laws, elections, is all a game and we (the people) has been losing for quite some time now. Why? Because most of us are distracted by unemployment, bills, and stress. And of course for the more shallow crowd reality tv, royal weddings, and twitter of course. Making it that much easier for everyone to conform. While it's important to watch the food we consume, its imperative that we pay close attention to the worldy affairs. We all have opionions but its time that we get the facts. Before John F Kennedy was "assassinated" he gave his last warning speech. In my words he was telling American citizens to wake up because it's not food, healthcare, or even terrorist that you have to worry about. It's our very own leaders positioned at the top, determined to defeat, destroy, and finally conquer the bottom.

        August 25, 2011 at 6:51 am |
  24. AmyLou

    Considering the FDA does not have the authority or the manpower to enforce existing rules, this is just a feel good BS vote on the part of congress. I am all for food safety, but give the overseeing department the ability to do the job!

    November 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  25. Mr. T. Bag

    "Self-Regulation" –what a blatantly obnoxious industry ploy/scam!
    So just allow the fox to regulate hen-house security... That's pretty much what we have now, and people die.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • eater

      China is an example of what happens when capitalism is left to its own devices, they are virtually completely self regulated and companies take full advantage of that. They use toxic chemicals as fillers which has caused much death and sickness and the quality of the goods they dont export are among the worst in the world (exported Chinese goods still have to meet standards but the ones they dont export are atrocious). What we see about China on CNN isnt even the tip of the iceberg, they do some extremely disgusting things to their food to save money.

      Not regulating food would be a VERY bad thing.

      December 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  26. Morimpre

    The industry definition of non toxic for cosmetics (Not regulated by FDA) is if less than 49% of animals died during the testing. Also the test can be stopped at any time, so if 45% of the animals died by day 8, they could stop the test and in a court of law they could say that 45% of animals died during the test and the product would therefor be deemed non-toxic according to the industry definition. The point is, don't trust the manufacturers, they are there to make money, not protect you the consumer. Go organic and non toxic people, or cancer will more likely effect those you love!

    November 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • JW Salthouse

      You are right and obviously informed about this issue to justify having an opinion.
      Like the frauds that want to make us slaves in the name of "fighting global warming", these people that claim they want to keep us safe while taking away our right to grow our own food. They use misleading words like calling this new fraud the "Food Modernization Act". What about protecting us from real dangers like an over-dependence on a few megalithic food producers? With these few soources of food, more people can be poisoned not less.
      What about protecting us from extinction by ending all genetic manipulation of our food supply. Now there is a threat to all life on this planet-unlike some bad eggs...

      November 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  27. Voice of Reality

    I think the right amount of regulation is that which the FDA or USDA can realistically enforce. What good is it to have strict regulations on the books if the funding is cut to the agencies who are supposed to enforce them, since that means staff cutbacks and other cost-saving measures such as decrease in allowable travel expenses, etc? They're tying their own hands with this one.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  28. SFC Mike

    Even small producers can have their products aggregated through co-ops and have their products reach interstate commerce. There is a direct Federal role due to the interstate nature of agriculture and food processing. The ideal mechanism would be analogous to labor law, where the Feds set minimum standards and have certain inspection and enforcement mechanisms, but primary power is given to the states to the extent they meet or exceed the minimum regulatory standards and actively enforce those standards.

    Another option would be to allow industry and/or local coops, local government, etc. to self-regulate, assuming they demonstrate a willingness and ability to meet appropriate safety standards – industry groups like to whine about government interference, but the demand for "interference" is almost always a direct consequence of laissez faire attitudes in industry and a total lack of self-enforcement.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  29. Evil Grin

    Tough one. For now I think that If the fed gov needs to oversee farms, it should only be the large farms shipping food nationally and internationally. Preferably, though, there would be more stringent industry standards for health safety in food. I think the almighty dollar plays a large part in why the industry doesn't already carry stricter standards however.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
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