Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin working on the Senate version of major food safety legislation already approved by the House of Representatives.
The bill focuses on foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which does not include meat and poultry (these are regulated by USDA).
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the bill includes several key reforms that would put real teeth into federal regulation of large-scale food processing corporations to better protect consumers. However, the bill as written would also do serious harm to family farming, local and regional food systems, conservation and wildlife protection, and organic farming.
The good news is the HELP committee could fix those problems with the adoption of some logical provisions that take on the corporate bad actors who put our safety at risk. These provisions would effectively address food safety at the source without harming the small and mid-sized family farms, sustainable and organic production methods, and more local and regional food sourcing that are so integral to the growing Good Food Movement.
Farm Aid-funded groups and partners Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Campaign (NSAC) have been working hard on this issue. NSAC formed a food safety working group earlier this year and issued a position paper earlier this fall, which you can read at their website (PDF link). They also organized a sign-on letter (PDF link) to the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has already resulted in positive changes in the legislation.
We'll keep you posted as the bill moves along.