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The Food Safety Act Raises Questions

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The Food Safety Act Raises Questions

Small American farmers can breathe a sigh of relief. When they’re not bracing for the worst, that is.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, the much-awaited reform of the food safety legislation voted in 1938 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Each year, 325,000 Americans are unnecessarily sickened and hospitalized from consuming contaminated food; about 5,000 of them die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The House is expected to rubber-stamp the text with no delay after voting its own version of the bill over a year ago. The legislation is designed to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the Human and Health Services Department, increased resources and authority to better control food producers, thus reducing the risks of food-borne illness outbreaks. The anticipated budget for its implementation is 1.4 billion dollars.

Passions about this piece of legislation have been running wild for months. Small farmers denounced the unfairness and crushing burden of one regulatory regime applied to family farms and industrial producers alike. After all, the latter bear the brunt of food-borne illness outbreaks due to the sheer size of their production volumes and supply chain. Meanwhile, the recent introduction of an amendment by Senators Jon Tester (in the picture) and Kay Hagan, designed to exempt small producers from the new regulation, unleashed a storm of anger and protests among the big guys of the American food industry.

The Tester-Hagan Amendment defines small farms and producers as operations with less than 500,000 dollars in annual sales, who sell more than 50% of their production directly to consumers. Their sales must be within 275 miles of their location, within state borders, and they must comply with state and local food laws. If contamination is traced to them, the exemption will be void.

In the end, both bill and amendment passed by 73 to 25. Local food and sustainable farming advocates like author Michael Pollan and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition applauded the decision.

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Laetitia Mailhes

Laetitia Mailhes is a French-born journalist. After many years as the technology and innovation correspondent of the French "Financial Times" in San Francisco, she decided to focus on what truly matters to her: sustainable food and farming. Find more articles and videos on her blog, The Green Plate Blog.


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3:47AM PDT on Mar 17, 2015

Thank you

11:41PM PST on Dec 5, 2010

buy local!

12:11AM PST on Dec 4, 2010

Interesting. thanx

8:52PM PST on Dec 3, 2010


4:29PM PST on Dec 3, 2010

The best thing people can do to protect their food supply is to STAY INFORMED! The government can only do so much and the time lag is significant. Only by being proactive and being aware can people REALLY protect what is important to their well-being!
I'm sorry, there are no "fail-safes" here.

11:49AM PST on Dec 3, 2010


9:37AM PST on Dec 3, 2010

Buying local should be on everyone's agenda. The produce is fresher, the price is better and I can complain directly, if a problem exists. It's simply a question of changing habits. Gotta love the fresh honey!

The Tea Part Republicans won't like this bill, but then who really cares?
The GOP had better not complain, since they have been preaching to protect small business, which couldn't be further from the truth. Big Business is about all they care, but then they may have backed themselves into a corner on this one.

9:21AM PST on Dec 3, 2010

REALLY interesting. It's a step at least!

12:28AM PST on Dec 3, 2010

P.S. The truly sad and evil truth about this is that lawful food poisoning has been going on since the 1970's! Please view the movie, 'FOOD INC.' AND SEE THE GORE DETAILS AND TRUTHS THAT IT TELLS.

12:26AM PST on Dec 3, 2010

This action is late in coming, and it doesn't matter how much it costs, people's lives are precious. This should not be happening in the 1st world country of the USA. AND it happened to me, and sent me to the hospital for a nine hour stay in an Urgent Care Facility that cost me $5,000.00. ON top of that I told the attendants what happened and they insisted on giving me unnecessary tests, which I declined, and they made anyway, costing me the exhortive amount of money. I've traveled in over 15 countries in this world, including 3 countries in Asia and I have never been sick like I was in America in 2005! And it's just been getting worse overthere. There needs to be immediate implementation of that bill and the health laws and conditions in America. Immediate means RIGHT NOW!!!!

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