Ahead of Food Safety Debate, Ag Writes on Traceability Concerns

April 16, 2010 Bookmark and Share

With food safety legislation set to appear on the Senate schedule as early as next week, commodity and food processing groups wrote Senator leaders this week to emphasize the importance of exempting grain commodities from onerous and unnecessary traceability standards.

Like its House companion, which was approved in July of last year, the Senate bill, S. 510, would grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to oversee everything from food production and processing to distribution and retail, and to ensure that imported food meets U.S. safety standards.

S. 510 as approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has been preferred by NAWG and some other agricultural organizations because it is more science-based than the House bill, but language incorporating changes made since Committee passage is not yet available.

In advance of bill language being finalized, NAWG and 26 other groups wrote Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) to oppose the inclusion of any traceability standards that would subject farms to new recordkeeping requirements or apply to commodities that are currently comingled for transportation, storage and processing.

The groups told Harkin and Enzi that the comingled commodity system is integral to the efficiency and cost-competitiveness of U.S. food, and that current recordkeeping requirements under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 are sufficient for comingled commodities.

They said that additional recordkeeping requiring processors to be able to link specific products to a specific warehouse or farm would be “impractical and unachievable, and would not yield demonstrable improvements to food or feed safety.”

“In essence,” the groups said, “such a requirement would require the industry, including small entities, to begin receiving, storing and shipping commodities on a segregated, identity-preserved basis, requiring construction of extensive new storage facilities and use of segregated rail, truck and barge transportation, depressing farm prices and totally undermining the ability of U.S. agriculture to provide an abundant, affordable and safe food and feed supply.”

NAWG and coalition partners have been closely watching the effort to strengthen food safety regulation, which has gained traction in part due to a number of high-profile food safety scares in recent years.

For more on the food safety legislative process and a fully copy of this week’s letter, please visit www.wheatworld.org/foodsafety.