Friday, July 31, 2009

House passes bill to improve food safety after making it more palatable to farm lobbies

"The House approved the first major changes to food-safety laws in 70 years Thursday, giving sweeping new authority to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the way food is grown, harvested and processed," Lyndsey Layton reports for The Washington Post.

"Agriculture interests were able to win key concessions" before the 283-142 vote, Layton reports. "Small farms are exempt from registration fees, ranchers and farmers now regulated by the Agriculture Department are excluded from the requirements of the bill and the FDA will have to consider the special concerns of small growers and organic farmers, among other provisions." (Read more) "Skeptics said the small-farm exemptions are not iron-clad," reports Charles Abbott of Reuters. "The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said FDA would judge if a farm gets most of its money from direct sales. Small farms that sell cheese, jam or other products to wholesalers would be subject to the fee and traceability, it said." (Read more)

"The pork industry kept out of the bill some proposed restrictions on antibiotic use," and grain growers will be exempt from "new farming standards," reports Philip Brasher of The Des Moines Register. Other changes from the original bill would "curb the FDA's access to farm records and limit its ability to set production standards to include only foods most likely to be contaminated," Jane Zhang reports for The Wall Street Journal. "The Senate isn't expected to act on similar legislation until later this year." (Read more)

"FDA typically relies on state inspectors to oversee processors," Brasher notes. "But even when they are working under contract with FDA, state inspectors have no authority to look at company safety records, a major loophole in current law, critics say." (Read more)

No comments: