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Blog item: The Food Safety 'Modernization' Act of 2009: Trouble in the Making?

Recommend this:  Hover here and click below to recommend this PlanetThought     Email a Friend     See Related

6 comments, last: Apr-2-2009   Add a comment   Author: GuestWriter (Mar-13-2009)    Play a Video
Optimism: 2 Categories: Philosophical & Quality of Life, Pollution, Wildlife and Nature

Organic farming requires many steps to be successfulWhat will happen to farmers' markets and organic farms?

By Jennifer Lance

As spring is in the air (when the north wind does not blow), I have begun longing for the good times my children and I have at the local farmers' market and contemplating our participation as vendors this year.  I can't tell you how much we look forward to our weekly adventures at the farmers' market, and how excited we are if we happen to visit a neighboring town on the day of their market; however, that could all change.

H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 could end farmers' markets as we know it by requiring growers to register, be subject to inspections of their gardens by federal agents, and maintain safety records related to food production or face large fines.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 reminds of the Consumer Product Safety Information Act (CPSIA) in the sense that is responding to recalls (salmonella in peanut butter/lead in toys) that needs addressing; however, the people responsible for providing consumers with safe products are inadvertently targeted.   I feel much safer knowing the people and gardens my food comes from rather than some multinational food corporation providing produce in the supermarket.

Under H.R. 875, all participants in farmers' markets will be forced to register, otherwise the market will be shut down as an illegal operation.  Failure to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 would result in a fine of up to $1,000,000 per violation.  Specifically, the law would apply to any food establishment, including farmers' markets, defined as:

(A) IN GENERAL- The term 'food establishment' means a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.

Just like small family handmade toy companies can't afford the requirements under CPSIA, the extra requirements and inspections required of small family farms under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 would be a burden.  I believe this bill is well intentioned; however, some critics have gone so far as to say the bill criminalizes organic farming.  Ironically, or not so ironically, the bill was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto. OpEdNews explains why this is Monsanto's dream bill:

The bill is monstrous on level after level - the power it  would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international "industrial" standards to independent farms - the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means.

The full text of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 reveals its well intentions, like protecting us from food grown abroad, and its favoritism towards agribusiness. While Ron Paul is trying to give consumers choice by legalizing interstate raw milk sales, other members of Congress are trying to outlaw small organic farms.  We need to stand up for our local family farms!

See original blog item: Eco Child's Play, Mar-10-2009  
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Click one tag to see readings related specifically to that tag; click "Tags" to see all related readings
  
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Comment by: bobs (Bob S.) (Apr-2-2009)   
David,

I would put a United States based farmer's market in the class of a retail food establishment, which makes them neither a Food Establishment or Food Production Facility according to the specific definitions used and its listing as an exclusion.
  
Comment by: rennyba (RennyBA) (Apr-2-2009)   Web site

Thanks for your warm welcome David and your compliments (Its hard to imagine if the USA needed to learn Norwegian so I do the best I can in English :-).

To keep you informed on how Norway and Scandinavia are handling climate change, energy use, and resources sounds like a bit of a challenge as I normally don't deal with that subject. My only post, as I can remember is this:

http://www.terella.no/2008/02/29/norway-opening-global-seed-vault-at-svalbard

I'll try to remember your kind offer and in the mean time, you can always subscribe to the feeds from my blog:

http://www.terella.no/feed
  
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Apr-2-2009)   Web site

So Bob, in your reading, is a farmer's market a food establishment or a food production facility?
  
Comment by: bobs (Bob S.) (Apr-2-2009)   

There is obfuscating language in this bill designed to confuse and redirect your attention to thinking by implication rather than specification. This is cleverly illustrated using the words "include(s)", "exclude(s)" and custom definitions. So let's take a look at an example.


(a) In General- Any food establishment or foreign food establishment engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the United States shall register annually with the Administrator.

Notice that annual registration is limited to a Food Establishment or foreign food establishment. One cannot imply that this extends beyond these two entities as defined in the definitions section and only those that engage in manufacturing, processing, packing or holding food for consumption.

Before I get to what is a Food Establishment or foreign food establishment, let me give you an example of the use of include and typical efforts employed to muddy the waters.

To start with we must recognize that if a word is meant to be understood as having its common meaning, there is no need to define it at all. It is axiomatic that if a word is explicitly defined, it has a restricted meaning. If language such as the term "Fruit" is used and defined as "includes, apples, oranges, and pears", it can only be understood as restricting the definition to those things listed, or no definition would be required; the word "fruit" would be understood to include apples, oranges and pears, as well as all other fruits. If the word "common" is left out of the definition, then the things used in the definition are what establish the class to which belong, and as the word is being deliberately defined, the common meaning of the word must be excluded.

Under the definitions section:

(13) FOOD ESTABLISHMENT-

(A) IN GENERAL- The term ‘food establishment’ means a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.

(B) EXCLUSIONS- For the purposes of registration, the term ‘food establishment’ does not include a food production facility as defined in paragraph (14), restaurant, other retail food establishment, nonprofit food establishment in which food is prepared for or served directly to the consumer, or fishing vessel (other than a fishing vessel engaged in processing, as that term is defined in section 123.3 of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations).

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

So a Food Establishment is not a farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, confined animal-feeding operation. This is a custom definition, is specific and no other implications can be drawn as meaning something else. Note that farm, ranch .... since not custom defined, have a common definition without exclusion or inclusion. I do not have cites to their common definition.

In addition to the above, a Food Establishment is not a restaurant, retail food establishment, nonprofit food establishment or fishing vessel (as limited in definition to section 123.3 of title 21 of CFR). Again, restaurant, retail food establishment .... have a common definition without exclusion or inclusion.

There is a specific class of actions as custom defined by 'Process', all of them being Commercial.

(19) PROCESS- The term ‘process’ or ‘processing’ means the commercial slaughter, packing, preparation, or manufacture of food.

Note this means Commercial slaughter, commercial packing, commercial preparation, commercial manufacture of food.

There is another specific class of actions not defined but listed as holds, stores, or transports. Common definitions apply here.

Also, there is a geographical constraint that limits this to any State. What is a State?

(20) STATE- The term ‘State’ means--

(A) a State;

(B) the District of Columbia;

(C) the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; and

(D) any other territory or possession of the United States.

This is important since we move to the only other entity required to register annually, a foreign food establishment.

(16) FOREIGN FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term ‘foreign food establishment’ means any category 1 through 5 food establishment or food production facility located outside the United States that processes or produces food or food ingredients for consumption in the United States.

Look at what has happened here. The Food Establishment custom definition does not apply since the location is specific and "located outside the United States" and does not fall within the confines of a 'State'. Therefore the exclusions of "(14) Food Production Facility" do not apply.

This makes this particular entity far more reaching than the restrictive entity of a "Food Establishment" located in a 'State'.

What does all this mean?

If you do not fall under the custom definition of a "Food Establishment" you are not required to register. If you are not required to register then there is no categorization of you as a Category 1 thru 5, you can't be assigned a registration number, there is no inspection, monitoring, or reporting requirements. This is however not a statement that you are not obligated to practice good health standards.
  
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Mar-14-2009)   Web site

Thanks, Renny. I appreciate your visiting all the way from Norway (and speaking English so well as does most of your country - imagine if the USA needed to learn Norwegian).

Would you like to keep us informed here, from time to time, on how Norway and Scandinavia are handling climate change, energy use, and resources? I am sure you could say a lot.
  
Comment by: rennyba (RennyBA) (Mar-14-2009)   Web site

First of all, congrats with your SlogBite “Featured Sites”! It's an honour to be on the same list as yours!

Since new here: You really have and interesting and readable blog - keep up the good work.

  
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PlanetThoughts.org welcomes occasional articles and opinion pieces from writers who are not regular contributors. Their contributions will be listed under the "GuestWriter" name, and additional attribution will be shown in accordance with the agreement with the original writer and source of the PlanetThought.
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