US: Growers question food safety bill
Posted: November 23rd, 2010 - 2:11pm
Agricultural groups are ambivalent about the Food Safety Modernization Act, a proposal being debated in the U.S. Senate that among other things would boost inspections, require better record keeping and broaden the authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The bill was introduced last year in the wake of a huge recall of salmonella-tainted peanut butter products. A companion measure passed in the House of Representatives, but Senate Bill 510 stalled until the largest recall of eggs in U.S. history gave it a second wind.
On the one hand, growers and ranchers have an obvious interest in avoiding expensive recalls that frighten consumers away from buying their products.
At the same time, "I'm always skeptical of what the federal government does because they do things in broad strokes and don't take the time to talk to people in the industry to see what would be most effective," said Sean McNally, vice president of corporate and government affairs for Grimmway Farms.
McNally said he prefers the model of the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement to heavy-handed government regulation.
The leafy green agreement is a public-private partnership founded in 2007, a year after an E. coli outbreak in spinach. Its more than 100 members are shippers and processors of leafy green products such as spinach and lettuce.
They worked together to develop food safety practices in collaboration with farmers, academics, food safety experts and industry scientists, and verify compliance with mandatory government audits.