Friday, December 10, 2010

Are Exemptions In The Food Safety Bill Justifiable?

I enjoy Jim Prevor's The Perishable Pundit. I don't always agree with him, but he makes some good points here about the Food Safety Bill which is inching its way through Congress right now:

Food Safety Bill Now Seems Likely To Pass With Exemption For Small Producers: FMI And NRA Refused To Join Ranks With The Produce Industry To Stop It. Final Bill Is An Attack On Wholesalers And Distributors
FMI: Food Marketing Institute
NRA: National Restaurant Association

The issue is whether the Tester Amendment which exempts small producers (less than $500,000 in sales during a 3 year period) creates a loophole that undermines the Bill's integrity. I think it does. Jim Prevor appears to think it does:
"... the size of the farm is not a relevant food safety characteristic. Same thing goes for the requirement that such small producers must sell more than half their production within the state they are located in or within 275 miles."
Note that almost half of a small producer's wares, which have been exempted via the Tester Amendment, may be sold non-locally (out of state and beyond 275 miles).
"... if you believe the bill is actually going to enhance food safety, then leaving small producers out of the loop poses enormous dangers to all producers — and the public."
Here he questions the link between food safety and selling directly to retailers, restaurants or consumers:
"In order to get the exemption from the food safety requirements, it is not sufficient to just be small or to sell locally; one also must sell directly to retailers, restaurants or consumers. ... The idea seems to be that if a buyer knows where the food is coming from, risk is reduced or eliminated.
But the restaurant or retailer 275 miles from the farm doesn’t necessarily know anything about his supplier. ... How many small retailers and restaurants [or consumers] have the knowledge to evaluate a farm or processor for food safety standards?"
Another good point he makes is that the Bill, with the Tester Amendment, discriminates against small family businesses that act as distributers.

If the Tester Amendment is not about protecting all small family businesses that sell perishables; if it's not about creating exemptions based on quantifiable food safety parameters; what is it for?
"... if one really believes these rules will enhance safety, they have to apply to everyone."

1 comment:

Bill Marler said...

I read Jim at times. Bottom line, this Bill is a compromise. ONCE IT PASSES, I plan to work on getting FDA and CDC fully funded to carry out the tasks, make sure the Regs are fair, and, to monitor the impact of the Tester/Hagen Amendment. Democracy is never over.