The Senate passed a bill (S510) also known as the Food Modernization Act Nov. 30, 2010 (read about it here). In a sweeping vote of 75-25, this law would give broader power to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and impose stricter laws on industries handling and producing our food. Some say this is a precursor to a food revolution; others say this will protect our food supply and make it safer for consumption.
Because this affects me as someone who raises chickens for eggs in the hopes of someday being able to turn a profit (We just got started in chicken farming and have not yet sold any eggs), I decided to do a little digging into this issue and what I found is a bit of good news mixed with not-so-good news for chicken owners, such as myself and my husband.
First, the good news: The law was not passed without an amendment called “The Tester Amendment.” The Tester Amendment, sponsored by Montana Senator Jon Tester, is supposed to protect small food producers like me from having to be subject to expensive tests we cannot afford. This law still will have an impact on whether or not we wish to pursue expanding our egg production to include public sale.
Furthermore, this amendment allows very small farms to be exempt from the new regulations, so long as the farm does not generate more than $500,000 in a three-year period, is within 275 miles of where the food will be sold directly to consumers, can demonstrate to the FDA that it is in compliance with all state and local food safety laws, and demonstrate it has identified potential hazards and implementing controls of those hazards.
Now the not-so-good news: Should an investigation of a food-borne illness arise from the exempt farm, the exemption can be withdrawn at anytime and the FDA has complete jurisdiction over the investigation. You can read the complete bill here.
In addition, some see this as another big government takeover and an infringement on Americans’ right to buy local produce and grow our own food. Will this law kill the small local farmer, or will it prove to make our food supply much safer? I think more research needs to be done and some scenarios need to play out before anyone can make an affirmative judgment.
CNN.com (2010). S. 510: Food Safety Modernization Act – the basics