Monday, November 29, 2010

Senate to vote on Food Safety Modernization Act today

Posted By on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM

Most of us go to the grocery store expecting our food to be as clean and fresh as it's packaged to appear. But, as countless food scares have taught us, all isn't what it appears to be. We're living in a time when the federal government tells us, on one hand, that we're fat, then spends $12 million to help Dominos and Taco Bell peddle more cheese, when food manufacturers have figured out how to formulate food so it's addictive, when raw milk producers are assaulted at gun point by government goons and when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ignores contaminated food in favor of corporate profits. Even our pets are obese these days.

So, it should be no wonder that the bill on the U.S. Senate's floor today — the Food Safety Modernization Act — has a little opposition from corporate farms and some government regulators. The goal of the legislation is to impose "rigorous new safety protocols and stronger FDA oversight, particularly over fresh produce" according to an article in the San Francisco ChronicleBut, don't we want that? Don't we want to feel secure about our food supply?

In good news, all indications are the bill will pass with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, however, meat and egg products — which fall under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's purview — aren't included in today's bill. Also, small farms making less than half a million in annual sales (where at least half of their produce is sold at local — meaning within 275 miles — farmers markets, restaurants or grocery stores) will still be under state jurisdiction. Although, if food contamination is ever traced to their farms, they'll then fall under federal rule.

The fact that most small farms will be excluded from the new regulations means giant corporate farmers are squealing like pigs, never mind that most food contamination occurs at their operations. The real issue for them is money; they don't want the slow food movement cutting into their profits. Still, the legislation will only require corporate farms to be inspected by the FDA every five years.

I don't know about you, but the more I learn about America's food industry the more I want to meet, and patronize, local farmers. There are several that live within a few miles of Charlotte. You can take tours of their farms, meet the animals and ask the farmer's all of the questions you'd like. (Some suggestions: What does your livestock eat -- grain or grass? Do you inject them with hormones or antibiotics?)

The website LocalHarvest.org can help you find the local farms, restaurants, grocery stores and farmer's markets near you.

Here's one of my favorite local farmers, Art Duckworth of Apple Orchard Farm, installing a windmill on his farm, which is part of his farm's sustainability plan.

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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