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UPDATE: The bill, with language that is substantially different from its original version, passed the Senate on Tuesday morning by a vote of 73 to 25.
See how senate members voted
The legislation—the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510)—was intended to get the FDA to crack down on unsafe foods before they harm people rather than after outbreaks occur. This was especially controversial because of a number of provisions that would have created a litany of unintended regulatory consequences for small organic farms and supplement manufacturers. The bill is better now than its earlier version despite push back from anti-health-supplement proponents and the processed food industry.
The work of a diverse and dedicated coalition and a few members of Congress helped change the bill for the better.
Here are some of the changes that grass roots ans organizational allies have made to the Food Safety bill:
- Excluded excessive punishment.
S. 510 will not include the obscene ten-year jail sentences for food and supplement manufacturers who violate complicated FDA rules. That language was specifically designed to target supplement manufacturers while leaving pharmaceutical drug and medical device companies untouched.
- Resisted international harmonization of food and health supplement policy.
Language in the bill was modified to prevent the US from harmonizing to international food and supplement rules as in Europe, where attempts are being made to regulate away natural health.
- Excluded small farmers from burdensome regulation.
Some small-farm and organic food advocates warned that the legislation would destroy their industry under a mountain of paperwork. An amendment from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), which exempts producers with less than $500,000 a year in sales who sell most of their food locally was included in the Senate version. Many organizations fought tirelessly to protect the burgeoning local healthy food movement from unwarranted federal regulation, and from the processed food companies that are increasingly nervous about competition. Thirty processed food organizations like the American Frozen Food Institute and the Corn Refiners Association sent a letter to the Senate arguing that a local produce stand should face the same regulatory hurdles as their industrial-scale processed food operations.
The House of Representatives agreed to adopt this Senate version of the bill instead of the 2009 House version.
The bill now continues to have a lot wrong with it.
There will be opportunities to change more through the rule making process as the FDA adds more regulation.
Information supplied by ANH may be included in this update.