The House of Representatives is considering HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, and it will soon come to a floor vote. From its title, it sounds good, right? Don’t believe it. This one-size-fits-all approach will harm small farms and local artisinal food producers, the ones you like to support at your local farmers’ market.
HR 2749 does not effectively address the underlying causes of food safety issues in the United States, namely, the industrial food system. Instead, it will give the FDA sweeping powers that will hurt exactly the type of local producers that are finally gaining support through the local and sustainable food movement.
Some examples of the impacts HR 2749 will have:GEOGRAPHIC QUARANTINE HR 2749 would give FDA the power to order a quarantine of a geographic area, including “prohibiting or restricting the movement of food or of any vehicle being used or that has been used to transport or hold such food within the geographic area.” Under this provision, farmers’ markets and local food sources could be shut down, even if they are not the source of the contamination. WARRANTLESS SEARCHES
HR 2749 would empower FDA to make warrantless searches of the business records of small farmers and local food producers, without any evidence whatsoever that there has been a violation. Even farmers selling direct to consumers would have to provide the federal government with records on where they buy supplies, how they raise their crops, and a list of customers.TRACING SYSTEM HR 2749 charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services with establishing a tracing system for food. Each “person who produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, or holds such food” would have to “maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food,” and “establish and maintain a system for tracing the food that is interoperable with the systems established and maintained by other such persons.” The bill does not explain how far the traceback will extend or how it will be done for multi-ingredient foods. With all these ambiguities, it’s far from clear how much it will cost either the farmers or the taxpayers. REGISTRATION FEE HR 2749 would impose an annual registration fee of $500 on any “facility” that holds, processes, or manufactures food. Although “farms” are exempt, the agency has defined “farm” narrowly. And people making foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables, cheeses, or breads would be required to register and pay the fee, which could drive beginning and small producers out of business during difficult economic times. CROP REGULATION HR 2749 would empower FDA to regulate how crops are raised and harvested. It puts the federal government right on the farm, dictating to our farmers.
In the past few years, a lot of awareness has been raised about our food safety and the negative influence of factory farms, CAFOs (Confined Animal Feedlot Operations), and industrial-scale food production.
They are bad for the environment, bad for communities and small farmers, and bad for our health. They are the type of food operations that need better regulation, not small family farms!
Books such as Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the recent documentaries “Fast Food Nation” and “Food, Inc.” have helped raise awareness.
Action You Can Take:
If you are a U.S. resident and are concerned about food safety issues and local, sustainable and small family food production, please contact your member of the House of Representatives.
This bill has been sent from committee to the floor of the House and will be voted on soon. Please tell your Representative to vote no on HR 2749.
If you are not sure who your Representative is, you can go use the “Find Your Representative” feature in the upper left-hand corner of the House of Representatives website.
Thanks for your support! For all of my non-American readers, I apologize for going into US politics today and hope that you will encourage your government to support small, local and sustainable food production in your country.