***USA - ACTION ALERT***
New Food Safety Bill HR2749
See Endnotes for edits and corrections
A new food safety bill is on the fast track in Congress-HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. The bill needs to be stopped.
HR 2749 gives FDA tremendous power while significantly diminishing existing judicial restraints on actions taken by the agency. The bill would impose a one-size-fits-all regulatory scheme on small farms and local artisanal producers; and it would disproportionately impact their operations for the worse.
HR 2749 does not address underlying causes of food safety problems such as industrial agriculture practices and the consolidation of our food supply. The industrial food system and food imports are badly in need of effective regulation, but the bill does not specifically direct regulation or resources to these areas.
To read a detailed account of the bill, go to: http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/news/news-15june2009.htm
Some of the more alarming provisions in the bill are:
* HR 2749 would impose an annual registration fee of $500 on any "facility" that holds, processes, or manufactures food. Although "farms" are exempt, the agency has defined "farm" narrowly. And people making foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables, cheeses, or breads would be required to register and pay the fee, which could drive beginning and small producers out of business during difficult economic times.
* HR 2749 would empower FDA to regulate how crops are raised and harvested. It puts the federal government right on the farm, dictating to our farmers.
* HR 2749 would give FDA the power to order a quarantine of a geographic area, including "prohibiting or restricting the movement of food or of any vehicle being used or that has been used to transport or hold such food within the geographic area." Under this provision, farmers markets and local food sources could be shut down, even if they are not the source of the contamination. The agency can halt all movement of all food in a geographic area.
* HR 2749 would empower FDA to make warrantless searches of the business records of small farmers and local food producers, without any evidence whatsoever that there has been a violation. Even farmers selling direct to consumers would have to provide the federal government with records on where they buy supplies, how they raise their crops, and a list of customers.
* HR 2749 charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services with establishing a tracing system for food. Each "person who produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, or holds such food" would have to "maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food," and "establish and maintain a system for tracing the food that is interoperable with the systems established and maintained by other such persons." The bill does not explain how far the traceback will extend or how it will be done for multi-ingredient foods. With all these ambiguities, it's far from clear how much it will cost either the farmers or the taxpayers.
* HR 2749 creates severe criminal and civil penalties, including prison terms of up to 10 years and/or fines of up to $100,000 for each violation for individuals.
Action to Take:
Contact your Representative now! Ask to speak with the staffer who handles food issues. Tell them you are opposed to the bill. Some points to make in telling your Representative why you oppose HR 2749 include:
1. The bill imposes burdensome requirements while not specifically targeting the industrial food system and food imports, where the real food safety problems lie.
2. Small farms and local food processors are part of the solution to food safety; lessening the regulatory burden on them will improve food safety.
3. The bill gives FDA much more power than it has had in the past while making the agency less accountable for its actions.
HR 2749 needs to be defeated!! Please take action NOW.
To contact your Representative, use the finder tool at www.Congress.org or send a message through the petition system (the petition will be on our website this evening) at http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/petitions_new.htm. Or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
To check the status of HR 2749, go to www.Thomas.gov and type "HR 2749" in the bill search field.
Updates on HR 2749 will be provided as events warrant.
Pete Kennedy, Esq.
President - Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
1. 7/12/09 edit - removed “random”: empower FDA to make
random warrantless searches of the business records