Farmers Markets and Food Safety: What a Week!

Love the farmers market?  With more than 5,000 farmers markets in full swing across the country, there’s sure to be one right near you. US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vislack has declared this week, August 1-7, National Farmers Market Week. If you haven’t ventured to one in your area, this may be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Don’t know where to go? Thousands of markets are listed in the USDA Farmers Market Directory.  The latest version of the directory comes out this week, too — obviously in conjunction with National Farmers Market Week. Last year the number of markets grew 13%. What kind of surge will we see this year?

Will the S.510, the Food Safety Bill come to a vote this week? 

This week, too, proponents of the federal food safety bill, S.510 — the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act — hope it will come to a vote. The legislation would give the federal government the power to make our food safer and help stem the spread of food borne illnesses by giving the FDA the authority to, among other things:

  • test for dangerous pathogens
  • trace outbreaks back to their sources
  • provide the FDA with mandatory food recall authority
  • subject foods from overseas to the same standards as those for foods produced in the US

TAKE ACTION: Urge your Senators to vote for the food safety bill!

Food Dangers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 5,000 people die each year as a result of food-borne illnesses. Many of these victims are toddlers who simply don’t have the immune systems to fight off infection. A mind-boggling 76 million people a year fall ill after eating tainted food, according to the CDC estimates. And 325,000 of them are sick enough to land in the hospital.

TAKE ACTION: Help prevent foodborne illness!

A number of prominent advocacy groups and individuals support S.510, the Food Safety Bill, including Consumers Union and Eric Schlosser, co-producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary Food Inc., and author of the best seller Fast Food NationSchlosser’s recent op-ed in The New York Times was right on target discussing the importance of passing the bill, and the surrounding issues of food safety. Here’s a video of Schlosser advocating for the bill:

Will the Food Safety Bill affect small farms?

The link to farmers markets is this: there’s been a good deal of concern that small producers — who by and large sell to farmers markets — wouldn’t be able to adhere to some of the regulations. Thus, the concern is that the bill would drive them out of business, in much the same way as small slaughterhouses were shut out by industrial plants after the massive consolidation of the meat industry.

“The Internet has been rife with wild rumors,” as Schlosser succinctly states in his op-ed, “that the bill is really a subterfuge cleverly designed to eliminate small farms and strengthen the grip of industrial agriculture.” But he continues, “the bill very clearly instructs the Food and Drug Administration to focus on its enforcement efforts on plants that pose the greatest risk of causing large-scale outbreaks. And the bill’s wording can still be clarified so that mom-and-pop producers aren’t threatened by heavy-handed government regulations.”

Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union agrees that there’s no reason for concern. “I don’t think it poses any threat to farmers markets, especially with all the provisions that have been added to the legislation,” she says. “There are provisions that the FDA must take biological diversity and organic producers into account. I think those kinds of farmers are protected.”

Consumers Union also says the bill recognizes the importance of small, sustainable and organic farms by:

  • Directing FDA to ensure that its produce regulations do not conflict with and are not duplicative of organic requirements. (This was added by an amendment in Committee)
  • Requiring the FDA to consider the impact of any produce regulations on small and diversified farms, as well as on conservation and the environment. (also added in Committee)

Concerns also abound that corporate farms would reap the benefits from exemptions proposed to help small farms. Halloran points to two amendments to the Food Safety Bill introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in April, which are designed to ease the burden small farmers believe the bill will impose on them if it passes. “I’m confident that in the end the bill will include provisions that adequately and effectively protect small farmers and processors with no loopholes for larger producers,” she says. Schlosser also points out in his op-ed, as well as on the video, that “what the legislation actually seeks is some restraint on unchecked corporate power.”

Poll shows Americans think FDA should have power to recall food

Consumers Union recently conducted a poll, asking 1,000 Americans if they thought the FDA should be given the power to recall tainted products. An overwhelming majority — 80% — said yes. As Schlosser says in his op-ed, our food will never be 100% safe — it’s unrealistic to think that it ever can be, but passing the Food Safety Bill S.510 is “a good first step.”

And Halloran and the bill’s proponents say, it’s crucial for the Food Safety Bill to come to a vote this week before the August recess. “If it doesn’t pass this year, then we’re back at square one,” she worries.

More from Care2 on the Food Safety Bill: 





Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Jenny S.
Jennifer Sanders7 years ago

wake up now or don't complain or beg for our food when you didn't believe us. this is the end of food freedom, ck utube for pre-earthquake Haiti, they eat cookies made of mud to quiet their starvation. Russia is just a decade or so past bread lines. Go to the library and look at photos if you can't read. Miss a meal and you'll think of food, miss a day's meals and you'll start feeling rough. the simplest control of humans is through food and nutritional deprivation, no bullets required! illness begins to drive people down and very soon you have your cowed and feeble populace. this is not SCI FI it's HISTORY!!!
You don't kick the cat when the dog chewed your shoes; all food borne illness in the US is tracked to FACTORY FARMS who are already regulated but ignore the laws due to their political contribution powers. Real food is the target here, not disease, no farm stand ever made a town sick. There is nothing in your life today as dangerous as the possible passing of this bill, even if you are too naive to realize it. You have to eat every few hours, and frankenfood from the factory farms are what causes cancer, ms and dozens of other rapidly growing illnesses. BON APPETITE!! call your senator and say NO now!

Peter B.
Peter B7 years ago

thankyou for shareing

Pamela Murillo
.7 years ago

tahnks for the info

Vivianne Mosca-Clark
Vivianne M7 years ago

Farmers eat the same food they help grow in their fields. They don't want to get sick ether. And organic food is the safest to eat.
No more bills about the government agencies getting involved. Their all in it already.

Theo Gerrits
Theo Gerrits7 years ago

O, you poor ignorant Folks, who are so easily lured into this S.510 trap, mislead by obscure organizers of extremely dubious petitions. Please do some research and see what you're doing to yourselves and your children. Well-known Canadian scientist Dr. Shiv Chopra: ‎"S 510 may be the most dangerous bill in history. It will preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat whatever food nature makes.It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one’s choice.It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or, if you like, the will of God. ‎"S 510 may be the most dangerous bill in history. It will preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat whatever food nature makes.It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one’s choice.It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or,if you like, the will of God.” You can compensate a little for your mistake by signing anti-petions. Look-up:

Lidia E F.
Lidia E F7 years ago

We have a farmer's market in our small town every tuesday.I love the variety of foods they have to offer and also some of the sweet snacks and drinks.Not sure if they are organic but they are fresh and look great.Though I guess that would be the idea.That reminds me,I need to go there again in time.Been a few years since I last attended a farmer's market.

Ioana Vasilescu
Ioana Vasilescu7 years ago

thank you

carol j.
carol jagiello7 years ago

I will Not Take this action- S 510 will strip the freedom of real food- Safety is IRRADIATED GREENS, safety is the potential of having to register your HOME GARDEN- Safety is the FDA, Big Pharma and Bio Tech having full and complete control of the US food supply- Please find out the truth about this bill before promoting its passage.

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

Lionel Mann is correct about the influence of corporations in the passage of all standards, including those which might protect the health of all people. Unfortunately, it is not just US companies, which are involved. All corporations, including foreign ones, involved in the manufacture of products or activities, which harm animals and people should be held accountable.

In addition, we ought to do everything in our power to support small, family farms. As Alice Liddell said, they are the backbone of any nation. They deserve far better than they have gotten.