Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Local Food Doesn't Mean Safe Food

Nice opinion piece by Caroline Scott-Thomas this morning:
Local Food Doesn't Mean Safe Food, FoodQualityNews, November 23, 2010

In speaking about the Food Safety Modernization Act S.510, she says:
"The amendment, put forward by Senator Jon Tester (D-MO) would exempt businesses that bring in less than $500,000 a year."
I thought it was less than $500,000 in three years. Still, I agree with her that half a million dollars of revenue seems to be getting away from a cottage industry.

This point she raises about "local" is worth a comment:
"And after some protest that a 400-mile radius was too broad, the definition of ‘local’ in the Tester Amendment was narrowed to 275 miles. Since when was Washington, D.C. (comfortably) local to New York City? Even if it is, where’s the evidence that local, family businesses make safer food?"
What mileage constitutes "local?" Is food miraculously unsullied if it is grown or raised under 250 miles, but suspect over 250? Where does that number come from?

And what if the person buying the "local" product turns around and sells it to someone further away? Is it still "safe?" If not, is it now exempted from being exempted? When does oversight kick in, if at all? This Tester Amendment has added a layer of complexity that doesn't have to be there.

Via Bill Marler:
"It was selling spinach wholesale from a small, organic farm that caused the 2006 spinach outbreak. Twenty-five acres of an organic spinach farm sold to a wholesaler, who sold to a manufacturer. The fecal contamination with E. coli O157:H7 was introduced at the spinach farm and amplified at manufacturer."
Would the supplier of that spinach have qualified for an exemption? (See update.) I don't know ... maybe not. But I can imagine farms springing up designed explicitly to fall within exemption criteria - whose food ends up being consumed beyond that inviolate 250 miles.

Update: My original post incorrectly named Earthbound Organic Farm as the spinach supplier.
Photo: Life.


Bill Marler said...

You are right on the $500,000 over three years. Here is the latest on Tester/Hagen:


I was talking not about Earthbound Farms - they ae clearly big and since the 2006 E. coli outbreak have been one of the clear leaders in the industry. I was speaking about the farms (Mission Organics in particular) that supplied spinach. This was a 25 acre plot.

Bix said...

Thanks for the correction! I'll update the post.

caulfieldkid said...

This reminds me. I was in Wally world the other day and saw some apples with a "locally grown produce" sign under them. Red flag: Alabama is not known for it's apple production.

So I looked at the bag. Apparently, Washington is considered local to Alabama. :)

(Forgive the comment for only being mildly relevant to the post).

Bix said...

For crying out loud...

What does "Local" mean anymore? It's becoming like "Natural" and "Wholesome."

Bix said...

Wally World? It just dawned on me ... is that Wal-Mart?