Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Size Does Not Fit All When It Comes to Food Safety Legislation

Twenty-one grassroots farm, ranch, organic producers and consumers, and holistic health organizations urged U.S. Senators to make changes in pending federal food safety legislation to ensure that the option to select fresh, wholesome, locally produced and processed foods is not denied to consumers. The House passed H.R.2749 in July and the Senate will soon be taking up S. 510 sponsored by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

“Both bills attempt to get at the problem of foodborne pathogens in the industrial food supply chain, where issues of traceability and accountability are a challenge,” Jeanne Charter, Northern Plains Resource Council member and rancher who direct markets grassfed beef in Montana. “The food safety bills in Congress bring direct market farmers and small local processors under an onerous regulatory regime, when these small producers represent a viable alternative to industrialized foods, and also are regulated by longstanding local and state public health and agricultural laws. When it comes to food safety, one size does not fit all.”

“Under existing laws, organic farmers go through an extensive and expensive certification process,” Alexis Baden-Meyer of the Organic Consumers Association pointed out. “Congress would now overlay that with another cumbersome layer of regulations applicable to farmers who are selling locally grown organic food direct to consumers.”

"More inspections and red tape will not make our food supply any safer,” according to William A. Powers of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. “Look at all the beef recalls, each beef is 'inspected,' but that does not make it safe. We need to address the root causes for food contamination. The food safety bills under consideration are trying to address traceability and accountability. There is no better way to trace food and be held accountable then selling your products directly to the customer. The farmer sees the customer eye-to-eye, shakes her hand, and eats the same food. We need food safety laws that are size and case specific."

“The growing trend toward healthy, fresh, locally sourced vegetables, meats, fruit, dairy and value-added products improves food safety by providing the opportunity for consumers to know their farmers and processors, to choose products on the basis of that relationship, and to readily trace any problems should they occur,” the letter points out. “Food safety in the industrial food system with its long, multi-sourced food supply chains, can and should be addressed without harming the local food systems that provide an alternative for consumers.”

The letter calls on Congress to remove local processors processing local foods for local markets and direct market farmers from the federal legislation, to remove doubling regulations on meat, poultry , and organic farms, and to hold the Food and Drug Administration accountable for its regulatory oversight.


The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society-NSAS is a non-profit, grass-roots membership organization who's mission is to promote agriculture and food systems that build healthy land, people, communities & quality of life for present and future generations. Initiated over 30 years ago by farmer members, NSAS has grown into a dynamic organization with members from all across Nebraska. We welcome all who are interested and concerned about where and how there food is produced, including farmers and non-farmers!

Margie MacDonald, WORC, 406.252.9672
Tami Wahl, AAHF, 202.467.1986
Judith McGeary, FARFA, 512.484.8821
William Powers, NSAS, 402-525-7794
Alexis Baden-Meyer, OCA, 202-986-6186