Produce, Fear Not!

Yesterday, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), a landmark bill that greatly increases the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority over our nation’s food system.  Under this law, to be signed by President Obama today, food facilities will be required to put food safety plans in place, and the FDA will have the ability to issue mandatory food recalls.

Small-scale local food producers were  a clear point of contention through the bill’s long journey in Congress, even when I first covered this legislation back in March.  But bill provisions introduced by Senators Tester and Hagan protect small, local food producers and processors; which, according to the Food Safety News web site, are:

“farmers and food producers averaging less than $500,000 in sales who sell most of their food directly to consumers, restaurants, and retailers (and not third party distributors) within the state or within 275 miles or within state lines.  The exemption aims to lessen the regulatory impact on small business–many of which are part of the local food movement–that may have difficulty absorbing the costs of complying with new federal regulations and should be left under the purview of state and local regulatory agencies.”

The bill also mandates that a food tracing system be created to help efficiently locate the source of contamination in the event of a foodborne-illness outbreak; and food importers must now verify the safety of all imported goods to ensure they are in accordance with U.S. food safety guidelines.  While funding for this bill is still under question, this bill certainly seems a great victory for public health — and spinach, peanuts, and eggs, just to name a few.

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