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Food Safety Bill s510: Good or Bad News?

November 18, 2010

The Food Safety Bill s510, considered both influential and controversial, was just passed in the Senate. This comes almost a year and a half after the House passed a bill calling to tighten the nation’s food safety rules. It will be the first time in 70 years that the FDA’s food safety system will be modernized. The bill will permit the FDA to increase inspections of food producers, track fruit and vegetable shipments and place stricter manufacturing standards to attempt to avoid outbreaks of contamination.

Some highly respected health experts are in fact on both sides of the debate—Michael Pollan (Omnivores Dilemma and Food Rules) publicly urged people to call their Senators to prevent the bill from passing, whereas Marion Nestle (Food Politics and What to Eat) thinks it’s about time for updated food safety regulations.

Little is known about the possible unintended consequences of the tighter restrictions that will come with the updated food safety bill.  Many individuals and citizen’s groups are concerned that the bill was passed without time for discussions and refinement of the details. In the days leading up to the vote, groups encouraged the public to contact Senators for fear of the immediate passing of the bill without amendments. 

Opponents of the bill were concerned that the cost of compliance and large amount of paperwork required would inevitably put small businesses, smaller suppliers, and those who sell directly to consumers, like small family-owned farms, vendors at farmer’s markets, out of business. This has the potential to significantly interfere with organic and small scale food manufacturers as well as various natural supplements.

It seems that only time will tell if Food Safety Bill s510 will actually make our food safer, or if it will lead to a host of other unintended problems.

Considering the safety of our food supply is timely. Increased cases of food borne illness have put consumers on alert. However, are increased government regulations and more red tape the answer? Or is getting back to basics and encouraging more local sustainable agriculture an obvious missing piece to this puzzle?

For more information about Food Safety Bill s510 see this Huffington Post article or ABCnews.com.