There have been so many twists and turns with the passage of the Food Safety bil, that I am posting this blog which I will amend with updates for those of you wishing to follow its progress. The Food Safety Bill, originally designated as Senate bill, S510 will affect food quality, safety and price– and the rights to health supplements– for years to come. In late November, author Michael Pollan added his voice to the group of citizens and organizations urging people to contact their Senators to assure that the bill that passes will not undermine the movement of organic, local sustainable growers and food producers.

Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) as well as the Organic Consumers Organization wanted concrete assurances that the bill, as written, would not apply the regulations explicitly crafted to regulate large industrial facilities (factory farms and industrial agriculture and manufacturers) to small businesses (family farmers, organic growers, farmer’s markets, food artisans and local suppliers).

A number of groups worked behind the scenes, knee deep in legislative policy discussions aimed to achieve flexibility for the burgeoning consumer-driven industry in healthier, locally grown foods, supplied by small to medium size operations– as well as for health supplements.

As of now, a refinement of the bill, called the Manager’s package, unveiled last summer, states that “raw agricultural commodities that the Secretary has determined are low risk and do not present a risk of serious adverse health consequences or death” may at the discretion of the FDA Secretary be asked to comply to modified regulations only. In addition, this new version omits “any requirements that conflict with or duplicate the requirements of the national organic program established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990…” This is a step forward for organic and smaller growers.

However, since that protection is discretionary (and since the new FDA Food Czar is a former Monsanto executive) that protection would be enhanced by the Tester Amendment, proposed by Senator Jon Tester. That amendment got support from Pollan, Schlosser, and 128 national organizations. Its provisions would assure that small businesses (under 500k in sales), and those who sell direct to consumers would be exempted from onerous paper work and compliance provisions, necessary only for large industrial suppliers. The concern has been that the costs of compliance and paperwork would drive small suppliers out of business. The Tester Amendment was voted in and included in the final version of the bill.

With dietary supplements recently outlawed abroad, there was also concern about this bill being a Trojan Horse for a take down of the healthy supplements industry. New language has been added to exempt “…any dietary supplement that is in compliance with the requirements of sections 402(g)(2) and 761 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 USC 242(g)(2), 379aa-1).”

Finally, there has been concern that S510 would enforce automatic harmonization with CODEX, an international law that would supercede American law. The language on CODEX was changed from mandatory, to discretionary.

S510 was passed by the Senate, but a few unrelated provisions were appended to the bill, which violated the rule that all appropriations be initiated by the House. Consequently, the bill was in limbo for a week until it was placed within the House “Continuing Resolution,” HR.3082, which guarantees appropriations for ongoing federal government activities into 2011 until the new Congress resumes budgetary considerations.

To take action on S510, go here:

For health insight, action and radio,