The Senate Passes the Food Safety Bill…But Not So Fast

After months, no make that years, of development and back room quid pro quo, the U.S. Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization Act this past week, which is essentially one giant baby step toward securing our nation’s food supply and keeping consumers relatively safe. Don’t get me wrong, this is likely a very good thing as it gives the Food and Drug Administration, an agency that in recent decades focused more on policing medical products than ensuring the safety of food, both legs and reach to keep unsafe foods from reaching the population.

This bill gives the FDA the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and to recall contaminated food (surprisingly a form of authority the agency had not had previously) as well as the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than just reacting after hundreds, if not thousands, of people are puking their brains out. In addition, the Food Safety Modernization Act would also require the FDA to do more field work in the form of mandatory and more frequent inspections of large-scale, industrialized food production facilities (note: the Salmonella outbreak that occurred last summer found its origins coming from an Iowa egg farm that had never been inspected by the FDA).

This legislation, long hung up in the Senate (and still in need of final approval), seems like a no-brainer and a somewhat satisfying response to years of health safety scares and sluggish recall responses (like the 500 million lbs of meat voluntarily recalled last year months after the majority of it had been consumed). But like anything grand and sweeping in government, there are tides and forces that want to further weaken or stall the bill.

Much of the problem is political (imagine that!) as the latest news out of Washington (according to a New York Times report) is that the GOP is looking to block the bill, not so much because the bill itself is objectionable, but because this may be an opportunity to throw some political muscle around and get those Bush-era tax cuts reinstated (note: because of an arcane parliamentary mistake, the Food Safety bill must be sent back to the House of Representatives, which must approve it and return it to the Senate to be approved one more time – I don’t pretend to understand this).

According to the New York Times posting, “On Wednesday, (Republican leader, Mitch) McConnell and the 41 other Senate Republicans sent a letter to the majority leader, (Democrat) Harry Reid of Nevada, warning him that they would not agree to move forward on any legislation until the Senate deals with the issue of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.” Let’s hope this little hiccup is not something that further stalls this progressive legislation.

More significant opposition to the bill has come from concern for the livelihood of small farmers and small food producers. The concern is that the mandatory regulations would be too costly for small businesses and would, in turn, put them out of business. This issue has been addressed by an amendment introduced by Senator Jon Tester of Montana, effectively makes the necessary exceptions for small producers selling their food to local restaurants, grocers or directly to consumers. Some critics, in reaction to this news, have expressed concern that allowing any exemptions for small-scale agriculture might threaten public health. We will see how this all shakes out.

The presumed good news is that, despite the roadblocks and backroom peddling, the issue of food safety is finally being addressed on the governmental level. Many who are skeptical of the FDA and its powers to affect real change are not seeing this as a revolution, but seeing it more as a way of empowering a largely ineffectual agency that has been unable to tell the difference between 500 million lbs of tainted and a whole in the ground. What is your feeling? Is this progress? Will you feel any safer knowing that the FDA has your back, so to speak? Is this legislation inherently dangerous and does it inspire false confidence?


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

Too much lobbying by companies?

Lacialynne Bailey

The power this bill gives the FDA with NO accountability.

The FDA has said point blank in court testimony that we have no right eat food of our choosing, that we can't discern good food and need Big Brother in this role.

What we need is decentralized, local, organic, diversified, sustainable farms. We need to KNOW our farmers and get away from huge processing plants.

There's another article I saw on here about the 10 riskiest foods and number 1 was salad greens! Almost everyone can grow salad greens, even apartment dwellers, they grow just fine in a sunny window or a pretty pot in an out of the way common area, or Guerilla garden in some out of the way, weedy unused spot.

For that matter, learn to glean edible weeds, many are very nutritious.

This bill is the proverbial "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" and we need to share knowledge and build solid food alternatives and networks now to live beyond their Franken Food.

Tisa L.
Tisa Loewen7 years ago

Agriculture Giant to Benefit on Senate Bill S510
Author: Elisheva Wiriaatmadja

Now wait for the shocking surprise. Michael Taylor, who was a lobbyist for Monsanto, is the one who designed the Senate bill S510. Currently he is expecting to be appointed Food Czar by FDA to administer the agency that the bill will create if it passes. Imagine the unlimited power Taylor will have over all US seed, food supplements, food and farming.

Senate bill S510 will eventually put all US food and all US farms under Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, in the event of contamination or an ill-defined emergency. This goes according to Henry Kissinger's plan as discussed by the article "Henry Kissinger's 1974 Plan for Food Control Genocide" which appeared as part of a feature in the December 8, 1995 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Teresa T.
Teresa Tate7 years ago

If Monsanto or anyone even remotely connected to them (such as several FDA officials) are FOR this bill then you know it's a bad idea. I want food safety in America, and we need some government regulation, but since Monsanto is connected to this bill it can only serve to benefit them to the detriment of everyone else. And I'm pretty sure that it doesn't not address the labeling of GMO foods, or products that contain GMO foods. Monsanto would NEVER allow that.

Annemarie W.
Annemarie L7 years ago

Baby steps...

Muis K.
Margaret K7 years ago

Darci, I appreciate your comments. Who are they kidding? Monsanto loves this bill, which ensures them control of seeds. Monsanto - big ag - which chokes out competition, and wants all GMO seeds, that you must purchase from THEM only. All your heirlooms seeds will be rendered sterile!!

This control is madness. People do your own control. Why must you always want more and more government. What sort of meaningful jobs is this country creating? All are inspector type who only will care about their pay checks, not about freedom and a healthy food supply!!
Stop the bill!!!!

Brian E.
Brian E7 years ago

BS ; Read deep into the bill and it is Draconian to
even back yard Organics = Large fines and Jail Terms ; and it's not inflation adjustable and many small farms produce 500k before expenses / then the next step will be Suppliments . These Benign sounding Bills are the most dangerous and should all be Scrutinized . The Goverment does not want to help you
it wants to controll you -- a long with the large Corp's
who together play by a different set of rules .
Keep on sending those emails and calls .

Darci A H.
Darci H7 years ago

Make your voice heard- email those who can stop this bill today and often!