Safe and sustainable: we need our food to be both, and nowhere has the case been made better than in the Academy Award-nominated documentary, Food, Inc. Earlier this month, Consumers Union, long a proponent of safe, sustainable food, hosted an Activist Summit in Washington, D.C. which featured two of the film’s leading voices: Barbara Kowalcyk, who lost her two-year-old son to beef suspected of contamination with E.coli 0157:H7, and whose struggle for tougher food safety laws is documented in the film, and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, and the film’s co-producer.
Schlosser is now joining with Consumers Union to urge consumers to fight for passage of FDA food safety reform legislation, which passed the House of Representatives last year and is now stalled awaiting action in the Senate.
That we need better measures to insure food safety is indisputable. Deaths from eating ordinary foods, from spinach to peanut butter, have made that clear. Leafy green processors, peanut butter factories, and other high-risk facilities should be inspected at least once a year, not once a decade, as FDA currently averages. FDA should have the authority to order recalls of tainted food, and not have to wheedle and cajole to get a company to retrieve a contaminated product. These changes are incorporated in S. 510, the FDA food safety bill pending in the Senate.
That we need a more sustainable food production system, one that involves smaller, more diverse, local production, is also clear. At the urging of the sustainable farming community, and supported by Consumers Union, provisions to protect sustainable farming have been incorporated into S. 510. The bill requires FDA to develop new food safety standards in consultation with USDA that cannot be in conflict with organic standards. FDA must consider maintaining biological diversity, impact on small farms, conservation and the environment in setting standards. FDA must also take into account the needs of small businesses, and give small businesses more time to meet the new food safety standards.
As Schlosser says, it makes no sense to continue to let the food industry regulate itself. The Senate should pass S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act now. You can urge Congress do so here.