Digest this: the new food safety act (and some very weird rumors)
December 1st, 2010
05:30 PM ET
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On Tuesday, the Senate voted in favor of the long-stalled Food Safety Modernization Act. While a final vote date hasn’t yet been set, President Obama hopes a House vote will go through with similar gusto, saying "We are one step closer to having critically important new tools to protect our nation's food supply and keep consumers safe."

The bill, which represents the most sweeping overhaul of the food safety system since 1938, allows for greater governmental regulation of the U.S. food system - currently in the national spotlight for numerous egg and produce recalls that have kept Americans in fear of their breakfast since this past August.

Here's a breakdown of the key points:

Mandatory Recall Authority

The FDA would have the authority to issue direct recalls of foods that are suspected to be tainted, rather than relying on individual producers to voluntarily issue recalls. Currently, the FDA can negotiate with companies, but has no power to enact a mandatory recall.

CNN Radio's Jim Roope speaks with FDA's Associate Commissioner for Food Protection, Dr. Jeff Farrar about the measures the FDA can currently take.

Hazard Plans

Food producers would be required to develop written food safety plans, accessible by the government in case of emergency. These would include an analysis of possible risks associated with production of their food and a plan to fix it.

More specifically, the food producers would be required to identify and anticipate potential "biological, chemical, physical, and radiological hazards, natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens, and unapproved food hazards that occur naturally, or may be unintentionally introduced; and identify and evaluate hazards that may be intentionally introduced, including by acts of terrorism" and develop a written analysis of the hazards that would "be made promptly available to a duly authorized representative of the Secretary upon oral or written request."

Tracing System

The Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to create a food tracing system that would quickly zero in on the source of contamination, should an outbreak occur, and keep it from spreading further. They’d work hand-in-hand with food producers to "explore and evaluate methods to rapidly and effectively identify recipients of food to prevent or mitigate a foodborne illness outbreak and to address credible threats of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals as a result of such food being adulterated."

Making Imports Safer

Importers would be required to verify the safety of all imported foods to make sure it's in accordance with U.S. food safety guidelines.

The Experts Weigh In

Despite the increased safety measures, CNN Health reports that many advocates say the bill is "historic but not perfect", and lacks "teeth" - noting that the FDA cannot file criminal charges against producers who knowingly put contaminated food into the market.

Senator Jon Tester of Montana, however, tells Eatocracy that this bill – with an amendment he co-authored, stating that food producers would not be subject to new federal requirements if they sell the majority of their food directly to consumers within their state, or within a 275-mile radius of where it was produced, and have less than $500,000 per year in sales – is a “win for anyone who eats food. Small processors win, farmers win, and even the big guys win because people will have faith in their product.” He adds, “This bill is designed to work. It’s not one size fits all.”

These processors would still be responsible for demonstrating that they have identified potential hazards and are implementing preventive controls to address the hazards, or demonstrating to the FDA that they are in compliance with state or local food safety laws.

As a farmer himself – though he does not direct-market any of his food – he is especially proud. “Over the last ten or more years, I’ve watched farmers markets spring up across Montana. They’re becoming more popular as people are eating locally-grown food. A farmer has to be able to look his customer in the eye. If you passed the bill without the amendment, it puts that trust at risk.”

And as to allegations - rampant on conspiracy theorist and Tea Party-affiliated blogs as well as in our very own comments section - that this bill will allow the FDA to toss grandma in the slammer for sharing her jars of dilly beans, make home gardens illegal and appoint the head of the Monsanto corporation as Emperor of All Seeds? Tester laughs. “They’ve got to just read the bill. Unequivocally NO. That’s just a case of using fear.”

You may now return to your omelette. If you dare.

Get more coverage on the food safety bill

Senate approves long-delayed food safety bill

Advocates: Food safety bill doesn't have teeth

Food safety bill 'not perfect' but historic

Op-ed: Jane Velez-Mitchell – Food safety doesn't end with S.510

Poll: How much control should the federal government be allowed to exercise over food safety?

S. 510: Food Safety Modernization Act – the basics

soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. nick

    I have diarhea. It burns.

    January 5, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  2. DT

    What are our congress men and women thinking????Are they so far up Big companies butts they can no longer see the light of day? Money is all they think about, power, greed...I am glad I live far away from the cities. How will they check every house, farm where will the money come for that? We can't pay our bills as a government as it is. Big business makes me sick along with my congress! We do need to clean the planet..starting with washington!

    December 31, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  3. The Witty One


    December 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  4. Ken the meatman

    These rules only cover FDA inspected plants. A lot of small producers are not federally inspected and don't have to folow federal guide lines small producers in most states are regulated and inspected by the state department of agriculture and they don't have as strict guidelines. So for small producers it would not change much at all. I deal with the michigan department of agriculture and the new federal guidlines and rules wil mean nothing to me, because i'mn not usda inspected

    December 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  5. rose helen militello

    i DO NOT buy grocery store poultry actually i buy all my meat from the local market and the poultry pork and beef are raised not too far from where i live.i can see and smell the difference ALOT in the poultry.

    December 15, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  6. flying turkey trot

    the picture may or may not be photo-shopped, but its definitely staged. FDA rules require that no "permeable substance" can be used, except for straw for NESTING. there is straw on thew floor, hence none of the chicken meat or eggs,can pass USDA inspection.... but it does look a bit photo-shopped...

    December 10, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  7. onsafari


    December 9, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Hmmm? Not sure what you're talking about. The commenting software automatically holds posts that have more than a couple of links in them, as it assumes those posts are spam. No one is trying to censor any information - just save our readers from having to look at too many fake Rolex & Viagra ads.

      December 9, 2010 at 1:29 am |
      • onsafari

        My bad! I listed more than a couple Internet links for anyone wanting to learn about the other side of this story that CNN summarizes in three words: "very weird rumors." I received an auto-response telling me, "your comment is waiting to be moderated." Moderated by whom? The spam folder? Where is it said in your CNN terms of use that comments with "more than a couple of links in them" are assumed as spam by your commenting software?

        Here are some links to view a few documentary films detailing how GMOs damage our food supply, with the URLs spelled out this time:
        “The Future of Food" can be found on a web site called: “snag films DOT com” and, “video project DOT com.” Another film titled, "The World According to Monsanto" can be found on the web site: “free documentaries DOT org.” There’s another film on Monsanto out there if you can find it, called "Food Inc.,”
        There’s also a popular book called "Against the Grain: Biotechnology – The Corporate Takeover of Your Food," found on Amazon’s web site.
        Also online: “Organic Consumers Association,” found at “organic consumers DOT org.”

        The film and literature out there promoting Monsanto’s agenda are usually always, if not always created by Monsanto. For anyone who thinks the “other side” to this story is all hype and paranoia, ask yourself, why would anyone vote yes to remove diversity from our food supply? That’s on this agenda they’re calling “food safety” in Congress. Genetic diversity is what keeps some of us alive on this planet whenever a plague strikes. Common sense checklist: 1) less diversity in our seed & crops means a greater likelihood crops can be wiped out in one fell swoop by some unforeseen pestilence, bacteria, etc. Same goes for the people who consume it. Those folks (us) will have weaker immune systems from less food varieties and built-in pesticides, all resulting in lowered nutrition from eating GMO crops (the body needs abundant vitamins and minerals to eliminate toxins). How convenient when a nasty new global bird flu, gobbledy-goo virus comes along and wipes out a segment of the "weaker" population. Survival of the fittest ensues, or in this case, survival of those with enough money and education to have been eating what's left of the organic food supply in the U.S., all the while paying out the #ss for it, and any purified water they can find.

        And some want to talk about how this new “food safety” bill is protecting us from bioterrorism?! Ha! How about setting us up for it? Our food is already loaded with antibiotics, hormones, viruses, bacteria and chemicals as it stands (as is our water, and our air). And now Monsanto is well on their way in taking the majority of God-given genetic diversity out of our food supply – PEOPLE WAKE UP. Monsanto even plans to genetically engineer crops to cure diabetes. What next, Monsanto is changing its name to Jesus?

        December 9, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
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