FDA Safety Bill Vote Delayed Until Next Week; Smaller Farmers Expected to be Exempt From “Onerous & Costly Regulations” – Tester Amendment

By Carol McCracken (Post # 640)

Yesterday the US Senate delayed a vote on sweeping food safety legislation, S. 510, until next week. The legislation would require the FDA to mandate more regular processing plant safety inspections and greater government authority in food-recall cases, reported “Sustainable Food News,” several hours ago.

While this legislation has received broad bipartisan support, an amendment, the Tester Amendent, did not initially receive broad bipartisan support. The amendment by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont), seeks to shield small-scale food producers from “onerous and costly regulations.” The Tester Amendment excludes producers who gross under $500,000 and who sell at least 50 percent directly to consumers or local retailers and restaurants from the new federal law.

Three compromises to the Tester Amendment have made the amendment more palatable to Republicans who who opposed the Amendment previously. The first compromise is that eligible “end-users” are those who are wither in-state or within 275 miles of the facility. (The previous version had allowed for up to 400 miles.) Second, the FDA would have the authority to wihdraw an exmption from a facility that has been “associated with a foodborne illness outbreak.” Third, farmers’ market sales are “direct-to-consumer” for FDA’s purposes.

A companion bill passed the House July 2009. A final vote on the food safety bill will require a 51-vote threshold.

This information was provided to MHN.com via “Sustanable Food News,” an online, organic newsletter to the food industry published by Dan McGovern of the Hill. For more information on subscription rates, please call Dan at 207 740-5249.

For background information, please see Post # 638 herein, 11/17.