Food Safety Bill Still Pending in the Senate
May 7th, 2010
S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, is expected to be considered by the Senate right after the Memorial Day recess, according to Senate staff. The bill is the first significant effort to increase food safety in decades and gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new enforcement authority over industry and will also have a significant impact on farmers.
For the most part, sustainable agriculture and family farm groups consider the Senate bill an improvement over the measure passed by the House of Representatives last summer. After the Senate passes the bill it will head to a conference committee where the differences between the two bills will be reconciled.
The “manager’s amendment” for S. 510 that will go to the Senate floor soon includes new language since last November’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee mark up giving FDA flexibility in implementing regulations for small and mid-sized farms and instructing FDA to have an open rule-making process to determine which on-farm processing activities, subject to current FDA bioterrorism regulation, are of low risk and therefore do not need to fall under the new regulatory requirements in the bill. That provision is one of four provisions incorporated into the manager’s amendment as a result of the work of NSAC and its allies.
The Committee is still negotiating over two amendments offered by Senator Tester (D-MT) that would exempt farm and non-farm facilities with gross sales of less than $500,000 from requirements that they write comprehensive food safety plans and traceback and record keeping requirements, and would exempt farms that direct market at least half their product from new FDA produce farm regulations. NSAC continues to be engaged in the deliberations over these amendments and we hope they will included in some fashion in the final bill.
Senator Feinstein (D-CA) has a bill pending as an amendment banning the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in all food and beverage containers. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups have come out strongly against the measure and a vote on Feinstein’s amendment is a vote that many Senators would prefer not to make.
A third amendment, sponsored by Senator Brown (D-OH) would expand traceback and recordkeeping requirements in the bill, but would ease those requirements with respect to farms. That amendment has been subject to negotiations for some time now without reaching a conclusion. NSAC remains engaged in the debate over this amendment as well as the underlying provision. Our bottomline on the traceback and recordkeeping issue with respect to farms is that no farm (whether or not the farm is a facility) be subject to more than “one forward” recordkeeping requirements to the point of first sale, and that food that is direct marketed or that is farm identity-preserved marketed be exempt.
NSAC will post again on this bill closer to the time it is scheduled for Senate action, or if there are any major new developments in the meantime.