Overreaching Food Safety Bill Approved by House Committee

June 19, 2009 Bookmark and Share

A food safety bill that would require unprecedented on-farm regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) moved forward in the House this week.

The bill, H.R. 2749, gained approval by the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a voice vote after being amended to address some concerns of small business and the meat industry.

The legislation comes in response to a number of high-profile food safety scares over the past few years.

As drafted, it would give the FDA broad new powers to regulate the entire spectrum of the agricultural and food system, in many cases without appropriate thresholds or accountability.

For instance, the bill would require, rather than simply allow, FDA to set standards for safe growing, harvesting and storage of raw agricultural commodities, including on-farm regulation, and would dramatically expand FDA’s access to facility and farm records.

Twenty national agricultural organizations including NAWG wrote leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday to express significant concerns with the bill prior to the mark-up.

The groups advocated for a number of key changes to the legislation, including:

  • changing the provision requiring FDA to set standards for on-farm activities to authorizing FDA to take those actions in a commodity-specific manner based on scientific risk-assessments and risk-management principles;
  • allowing FDA personnel access only to records that directly bear upon product safety;
  • providing protections against unauthorized disclosure by FDA of proprietary or confidential business information to which the agency gains access;
  • ensuring confidentiality of farming operations including items such as farm location, commodities produced, farming practice and financial data;
  • requiring FDA to indemnify entities affected by inappropriately disclosed information; and
  • removing country-of-origin labeling requirements for non-processed food products.

NAWG continues to work with other commodity and wheat-chain organizations to assess the impact of the bill and urges Members in both chambers to make reasonable changes before final passage.

The ag groups’ full letter is accessible at www.wheatworld.org/issues/foodsafety.