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Citing changes “not in keeping with our fundamental position of risk- and science-based food safety efforts,” the Produce Marketing Association has announced its opposition of the Food Safety Modernization Act awaiting action during the current lame-duck session of Congress.
“Unfortunately, we must now oppose S. 510,” Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of the Newark, Del.-based trade group, said in a letter to members Thursday.
A late-hour amendment added to the bill by Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) exempts processors or farmers who meet certain criteria unrelated to risk. For example, it would exempt a food facility or farm if it has sales of $500,000 or less, or sells half of its food to retailers, restaurants or consumers in the same state or within 275 miles.
“If this was enacted, federal regulation would apply based on where the food is sold and how much it earns – neither of which are risk factors,” Silbermann said. “Because it would require the Food and Drug Administration to regulate based on miles traveled or other factors irrelevant to safety, PMA must oppose the bill.”
PMA has “long and energetically” been engaged in efforts to modernize food safety laws to protect public health and enhance consumer confidence, Silbermann noted. “Food safety is not a large or small producer issue,” he said. “The sad irony is that the amendment that exempts these small facilities will hurt small growers and processors, in the end causing them to lose market opportunities.”
Further, Silbermann said, Tester’s amendment “weakens consumer protection because many products will not be subject to the new safety rules. Consumer confidence is essential to our industry, and having national safety standards for all is critical to building that confidence.”
Silbermann urged the Senate to strip the amendment from the bill. “Pathogens don’t discriminate based on region, crop, farm size, market distance or anything else,” he said. “Public health and consumer confidence hinge on a strong food safety system that includes federal legislation and regulation in addition to industry’s impressive efforts. We’ll continue to advocate for smart governance that provides practical, effective solutions that will help our members succeed in the marketplace and build consumer confidence and demand for our products.”