Senate to expand food safety initiative

Nov 13, 2009
by WLJ
Senate to expand food safety initiative

Last week, Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow jumped into the debate over food safety by introducing a sweeping set of reforms which would trace all the way back to the farmer or rancher who produced the food. Senate Bill 2758 (S. 2758), the Growing Safe Food Act, would mandate the education and training of those who produce food in food safety measures meant to protect consumers.

The proposed legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D- NM, Barbara Boxer, D-CA, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, Patrick Leahy, D-VT, Jeff Merkley, D-OR, and Bernie Sanders, I-VT, would move forward on implementing some measures of the stalled Food Safety Modernization Act S. 510 which has been unable to gain traction in the Senate as other matters such as health care reform are clogging the calendar.

Stabenow said last week that her bill will help smalland mid-sized producers of food comply with the expanded authority given to the Food and Drug Administration when S. 510 passes, as it is expected to.

“With all the recent scares over contaminated food, this legislation will help restore consumer trust in the safety of our food supply,” said Stabenow. “Providing training to farmers and processors on things like handling practices and safe packaging will go a long way toward restoring this confidence.”

The training program would be administered by USDA’s National Integrated Food Safety Initiative. State agriculture departments, extension services, agricultural trade associations, and universities would be eligible to apply for grant support to promote training programs.

According to a release from Stabenow’s office, “Training can be in the areas of handling practices, manufacturing, produce safety standards, risk analysis, sanitation standards, safe packaging, storage, traceability, record-keeping, and food safety audits.”

The proposed bill also would require that current standards for projects such as conservation projects, biodiversity, and organic farming standards would have to be taken into account in the development of any training program receiving funds. — WLJ