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US food-safety bill concerns pork producers

While they support efforts to strengthen the US food- and animal feed-safety systems, pork producers have a number of concerns with food-safety reform legislation approved June 10 by a US House subcommittee, said the National Pork Producers Council.

Chief among those concerns are provisions that would give authority to the US Food and Drug Administration to conduct on-farm inspections, to quarantine geographic areas over food-safety problems and to create a “farm-to-fork” tracing system for food.

The US Department of Agriculture already oversees farms, can quarantine animals when a state asks it to for animal health reasons and has an animal identification system that can trace back an animal to its farm of origin within 48 hours, NPPC pointed out.

The “Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009” also would allow FDA to write safety standards for on-farm issues, such as animal control, manure use and employee hygiene. Food from farms would be considered “adulterated” if the operations did not follow the safety standards outlined by FDA.

“Producing safe pork is a top priority of US pork producers,” said NPPC President Don Butler, “but the legislation now moving through the House would set up duplicative regimes and would give broad authority over our operations to an agency that lacks the personnel and expertise to address on-farm issues. That's a recipe for disaster for America's food animal farmers and, ultimately, for America's consumers.”

The food-safety bill, which was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's health subcommittee and which could be considered by the full committee next week, also would require new records to be kept by farms and require those records to be compliant with FDA standards.

But farmers keep records according to state laws and industry programs, said NPPC. Complying with FDA record-keeping requirements would necessitate farmers overhauling their current record-keeping systems.

“We need a robust food-safety system in this country,” Butler said, “but the programs and provisions in such a system need to be based on sound science and should be targeted at the greatest food-safety risks.”

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