January 7, 2011
On Tuesday, January 4, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, marking the end of the bill’s tumultuous road to passage and the beginning of what may prove to be another lengthy road to correctly implement and fund its provisions.
As reported in a number of previous blog posts, the bill – if funded – will be the first major overhaul of food safety regulations in nearly a century. It provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the authority to increase risk-based inspections, require mandatory recalls of tainted food, and more effectively trace foodborne illness outbreaks to their source.
For nearly two years, NSAC and other family farm advocates at the grassroots and in DC helped lead efforts to win small and mid-size farm amendments to the legislation. The bill is far from perfect, but several NSAC-backed amendments assure protections and size-appropriate alternatives from cumbersome, one-size-fits-all regulations for smaller farms and processors and for local and regional food systems, as well as some protections for wildlife and natural resource conservation and for organic farming. Read more about these provisions here.
The legislation, which is estimated to cost $1.4 billion over five years, faces an uphill battle for funding in the budget-conscious 112th Congress. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), the incoming chair of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA’s budget, has threatened to withhold funding for its implementation, calling our nation’s food supply “99.99 percent safe.”
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, believes that Republican opposition to funding the bill may be a bluff. “Here’s a food safety bill supported by consumer groups, all the business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Consumer’s League. We had 73 votes in the Senate on this bill and they don’t want to fund it?”
Whatever the fiscal outcome, NSAC will continue to work to ensure that protections for small and mid-sized farms and local and regional food systems are preserved as the bill’s provisions are rolled out as rules and guidance from the FDA over the next few years.
Categories: Food Safety