Limited Abundances

With growing concerns about food safety due to the increase in food borne illnesses such as Salmonella poisoning , it is important to make informed decisions as a consumer. Food regulations and standards are part of the equation that ensures the food we bring home to our families are safe, clean and healthy. Which is why I would like to talk about how these regulations affect us. Will they make our food safer and yet not restrict our food choice options?

Firstly, when dealing with food safety many people focus on location or origin where the food that they are feeding their families are grown. Some of them are labeled with country, region, or growth process, others are not. In addition to food safety concerns, finding more sustainable and eco-friendly food options are also becoming more important as we move toward a more preserving mentality. In some cases, many believe that home grown organic produce, or local produce from farmers’markets are both safer and healthier options to GM-Genetically Modified-food or the other options in supermarkets around the country. Will regulated food be safer? How will regulations affect small farms, home gardeners, middle America?

With these questions in mind, I took a look at regulation installments, specifically Bill-H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 which was introduced to the House on Feb. 4th 2009 and is now referred to a committee. Since, H.R. 875 relates to food safety and regulation, it naturally peaked my interest.

H.R. 875:

Directs the Administrator to: (1) administer a national food safety program; and (2) ensure that persons who produce, process, or distribute food prevent or minimize food safety hazards. Sets forth requirements for the Administrator to carry out such duties, including: (1) requiring food establishments to adopt preventive process controls; (2) enforcing performance standards for food safety; (3) establishing an inspection program; (4) strengthening and expanding food borne illness surveillance systems; (5) requiring imported food to meet the same standards as U.S. food; and (6) establishing a national traceability system for food.

I am all for food safety especially with the increasing food recalls in the past years. It makes me question, will these recalls become a natural thing in the U.S. – increasing to the point that it becomes a common occurrence, such as the sky is blue and no one is shocked or concerned or questions it. Is our world moving so fast that we now function purely with our short term memory? If things are not today’s hot topic then we slowly become accustomed to them. It’s easy to simply say, well we won’t be eating peanut butter for a while, or I guess no tomatoes for a few weeks. It is surprising, with today’s advanced technology, safer standards and increasing regulations, that more mistakes are made than ever before. Like many consumers, I would like to know where my food came from and be able to keep my options open when it comes to their sources and origins.  Let alone, it may seem like an unrelated issue but with the uncertain economy, company down-sizing, consumers are more aware of things such as food prices – with them at an ultimate high currently, and the global food crisis that is affecting many communities both here at home and abroad. While food becomes more scarce, the desire for safer and healthier options are becoming a necessity along with implementation of more sustainable and more earth friendly food production. With all these in mind, section 2 (bold section above) concerns me because of the looseness in the language. “Persons who produce, process, or distribute” food could be anybody, from the casual home vegetable gardener, to moms and families, to small organic farmers, really ANYBODY.

My questions are where does the regulation begin and where does it end? How will it affect us as consumers? In our choices, options and decisions to provide safer food to our family? If I were to plant some organic herbs in my kitchen, make my own butter, do some canning … etc. Will I be required to follow the regulations set forth in H.R. 875? What is the definition of food establishments? Do they include my own private kitchen? Will lay persons be required to adhere to inspections in their food preparation for the strengthening and expanding food borne illness surveillance systems? I agree that clauses like requiring imported food to meet the same standards as U.S. food should be implemented. Establishing a national traceability system for food should include food production and sources such as whether or not they are organic, non-organic, GM-food or non GM-food. Implementation of some regulations could be an important and might even be a necessary step. However, the boundaries and languages of such regulations should be more specific. The regulations themselves should both protect consumer choices as well as be easily understandable to a lay person.

I agree with the belief that small farmers are the solution to the global food crisis. Empowering small business and small farm owners so they are able to directly reach the general public will help drastically decrease food cost. We will be cutting out the middle man, reducing processing and transport costs, thus lowering our environmental impact. Consumers will be able to access fresher, cleaner and safer food directly from their sources. They will be fully informed about what it is that they are eating and where it came from without limiting options.

Regardless of my personal opinion, my intent in bringing this subject to your attention is not to advocate particular practices. I am by no means pushing specific options as to where your food should come from, that is a choice each of us has to make. Although, I believe in making informed decisions when we do make that choice. I am just a concerned consumer like you who is seeking some answers by asking some questions.

How do you feel H.R. 875 affect you as a consumer? What do you think about the different clauses in the bill? Are there particular ones you disagree or agree with? When doing groceries, what are the factors you consider when deciding which kind of food do you purchase? Any thoughts on solutions we should pursue to offset the fast growing food crisis? What do you think we-the consumer and the government should do to establish safer and more sustainable means to make food safer and more available? What other questions and concerns do you have?

Consider addressing your thoughts/concerns/questions to your local House of Representatives. They are the ones who will be making the decisions affecting all of us. Hearing the questions and opinions of their constituents is an important part of their decision making.

Would love to hear your comments, feedback and thoughts on this bill.





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