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Biggies' food safety push meant to hammer farmers and direct farm marketers

Published on: December 13, 2010

The latest strategies by U.S. food industry leaders confirm, in my mind, that they are no friends of agriculture. In fact, the push by large-scale processors and marketers actually meant to bite the hand that feeds them.

United Fresh, the nation's largest trade organization for the fruit and vegetable industry, worked hard to bring small-scale fruit and vegetable producers and marketers under the regulatory thumb of the Food and Drug Administration via the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act. They were outraged with Senator Jon Tester's amendment to exempt smaller producers.

Citing "dangerous loopholes", United withdrew its support. Robert Guenther, United's senior vice president of public policy, said the amendment "weakens public health protection by exempting some producers and processors based on entirely non science-based factors, limiting FDA's ability to assure consumers that all foods they purchase, whether at grocery stores, restaurants, farm markets, or elsewhere, have all met the same food safety standards."

Imagine the impact of requiring smaller scale fresh market producers, farmers markets, and food stands to develop hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) standards. The fast-growing "fresh and local" marketing phenomenon – where food safety issues are minimal – would be quashed. 

Even with the Tester amendment . . .
S.510 will bury farmers in regulations and paperwork and consolidate agricultural production into fewer, larger industrial facilities, contends the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association. The bill does exempt FDA regulation of meat, poultry or processed eggs. But that's already regulated by U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies.

What about those rotten eggs from Iowa, you ask, that "yolked" the industry's face early this year? That was a matter of state agency regulatory oversight. Most major egg-producing states follow much more stringent quality control guides.

What about milk and dairy products? That's still unclear. But if raw milk and dairy products are pulled out of state jurisdiction, you can imagine the future for raw milk.

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