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Background and Resources on Federal Food Safety Enhancement Act

November 23rd, 2009

washing vegetables

UPDATE: Senate Committee Passes Food Safety Legislation
H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act (FSEA) of 2009 which has been passed by the House of Representatives has caused significant controversy among almost all elements of the agricultural community. The Senate is now pursuing its version of the bill, S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 and the bill has been passed out of Committee and could be debated by the full Senate before the end of the year. At the same time several grower, handlers, and processors groups are pursuing additional national food safety standards for leafy greens through the creation of a leafy greens marketing agreement. There was a series of meetings discussing this national marketing agreement around the country with strong opposition expressed by many organizations related to organic and sustainable agriculture.

The House bill grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authority and resources it needs to better oversee the safety of more of the nation's food supply. The legislation also increases industry's responsibility for overseeing the safety of their own products and provides FDA with new and enhanced tools to hold them accountable when they fail. It also imposes a $500 fee on any food facilities covered by the legislation, no matter the size. This one size fits all, has been severely criticized by organic and sustainable local and regional food system advocates because it unfairly causes a financial burden on the smaller often on-farm food processing facilities. It is also important to note that the legislation in both houses of Congress only pertains to primarily produce crops and processed foods, completely ignoring potential livestock and commodity crop sources of food contamination.

The controversy within the broad agriculture community is to what degree the ultimate legislation will increase the ability of the FDA to regulate farmers on how to produce food safely or who minimally process their products on-farm facilities. Many agricultural groups have been trying to modify the legislation to limit or carefully constrain the ability of the FDA to expand its regulatory authority over agricultural production. The major argument is that the source of the food safety problem is not with farm production practices or smaller limited often on farm processing, but rather with very large food processors that process high volumes of product.

The broad sustainable agricultural community has responded to the legislation and in particular several groups (including NCAT) have joined together with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) to respond to more detailed elements of the legislation and to work to improve the legislation in the Senate version.

Below is a link to a policy brief developed by NSAC which reviews the FSEA, the draft Senate legislation and the leafy greens marketing agreement. Also attached is recent press released by NSAC, which outlines the continuing problems with the Senate committee bill soon to be debated by the whole Senate.

Recent Press Release on Senate Committee Version of Bill

PDF Icon Dear Colleague Letter

More information:
PDF Icon NSAC Food Safety Policy Brief
Courtesy of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

More information on FSEA including current text of bill see:
H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009

More information on Senate Committee Food Safety Bill please see:
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PDF Icon This document is a response by the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture (NSAC) to representative Representatives Dingells' comments on the House passed bill.

For related information from a special food safety working group established by President Obama see:

A recent release by the Western Organization of Resources Councils also outlines similar and particular sustainable agricultural issues on the legislation:
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This page was last updated on: December 13, 2014