Dear Mrs. Peevy:
Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts concerning S. 510, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act. It is good to hear from you.
I cosponsored the bipartisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which was introduced in the Senate on March 3, 2009, by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois. As it is written, this legislation would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to enhance current FDA authority to better protect our nation's food supply. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act calls for an increase in the frequency of FDA inspections at all food facilities, grants the FDA expanded access to records and testing results, and allows the FDA the authority to order mandatory recalls should a private entity fail to do so voluntarily upon the FDA's request. S. 510 also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a pilot project to test and evaluate new methods for rapidly and effectively tracing fruits and vegetables in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak. On December 18, 2009, S. 510 was reported out of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar.
Whether produced domestically or imported, Americans must be able to trust that the food sold in their grocery stores and restaurants is safe. I believe it is vital to ensure that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the tools to properly monitor and inspect the food that is consumed in this country. While overall the safety of our food supply is unmatched throughout the world, certain incidents demonstrate the need to afford regulators the authority they need to better identify vulnerabilities in our food supply while maintaining the high level of food safety most Americans enjoy and take for granted.
As a member of the U.S. Senate and a consumer myself, I believe it is vital to improve our capacity to prevent food safety problems, as well as our capacity to detect and respond to food-borne illness outbreaks. An effective public-private sector partnership is critical to this overall effort. The private sector has the responsibility to follow federal guidelines and ensure the safety of their products. The federal government has the responsibility to oversee these efforts and take corrective actions when necessary.
There are many provisions of S. 510 to assist small farmers and protect them from undue regulation. The small farm provisions of S. 510 are extremely important and were key to my decision to be an original cosponsor of the bill. The following are just a few examples of small farm provisions included in the bill that I strongly support:
1)Small entities that produce food for their own consumption or market the majority of their food directly to consumers are not subject to registration or new recordkeeping requirements. This includes food sold through farmers' markets, road-side stands, public events and organizational fundraisers;
2)The original bill makes no change in definition of facility under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 which have to register with FDA. Farms and restaurants were exempted, and remain exempted in S. 510;
3)Small businesses are given regulatory flexibility throughout S. 510. For example, small processors are given additional time to comply with new food safety practices and guidelines created by the bill and the Secretary may modify or exempt small processors from new hazard analysis and preventive control requirements based on size and risk. The legislation also requires the FDA to publish several user-friendly small entity compliance guides to assist firms with the implementation of new practices;
4)Throughout the bill, consideration is given to the unique agricultural practices and requirements organic foods under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990; and,
5)Regarding risk-based traceability, farms and small businesses that are not food facilities are not expected to create new records. Only during an active investigation of a food-borne illness outbreak, in consultation with state and local officials, the Secretary may ask a farm to identify potential immediate recipients of food if it is necessary to protect public health or mitigate a food-borne illness outbreak.
I am concerned about the Tester Amendment because it establishes exemptions that are not based on risk or science, and it creates a loop-hole in which regulated products could be processed with unregulated products. As stated above, ALL farms that directly market to consumers are protected in the original version of S. 510, and the Tester amendment is unnecessary and potentially harmful.
While I was an original cosponsor of S.510, I am concerned about the last minute changes that were made to the bill behind closed doors, both due to the substance of those changes as well as potential costs associated with them. I am also concerned that Senators will not have the opportunity to offer amendments on the Senate floor for an open and transparent debate. For these reasons, I voted against the motion to proceed to S. 510. I will carefully review the implications of the changes to S. 510 to determine if I will support the bill when it comes to a vote for final passage.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. If I can ever be of assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to let me know.