Food-safety bill concerns U.S. pork producers
June 12, 2009
by Bryan Salvage
WASHINGTON — Although supporting efforts to strengthen the U.S. food- and animal feed-safety systems, U.S. pork producers have concerns with food-safety reform legislation approved June 10 by a U.S. House subcommittee, according to the National Pork Producers Council.
Among the biggest concerns are provisions that would give authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct on-farm inspections, to quarantine geographic areas over food-safety problems and to create a "farm-to-fork" tracing system for food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture already oversees farms, can quarantine animals when a state asks it to for animal health reasons and has an animal identification system that can trace back an animal to its farm of origin within 48 hours, N.P.P.C. relayed.
F.D.A. would also be allowed to write safety standards for on-farm issues, such as animal control, manure use and employee hygiene under the Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009. Food from farms would be considered "adulterated" if the operations did not follow the safety standards outlined by F.D.A.
Producing safe pork is a top priority of U.S. pork producers, said Don Butler, N.P.P.C. president. "But the legislation now moving through the House would set up duplicative regimes and would give broad authority over our operations to an agency that lacks the personnel and expertise to address on-farm issues," he added. "That’s a recipe for disaster for America’s food animal farmers and, ultimately, for America’s consumers."
Approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee, the food-safety bill could be considered by the full committee next week. It also would require new records to be kept by farms and require those records to be compliant with F.D.A. standards.
N.P.P.C. explained farmers already keep records according to state laws and industry programs. Complying with F.D.A. record-keeping requirements would necessitate farmers overhauling their current record-keeping systems.
"We need a robust food-safety system in this country, but the programs and provisions in such a system need to be based on sound science and should be targeted at the greatest food-safety risks," Mr. Butler said.