Food-safety bill still concerns NPPC

24-06-2009 | |

The National Pork Producers Council has been successful in blocking from food-safety legislation new on-farm regulation of pork operations, which already are overseen by the US Department of Agriculture and state agencies.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved an amendment to the “Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009,” H.R. 2749, that exempts livestock and poultry farms from a provision that expands the US Food and Drug Administration’s authority over food producers. It would allow FDA to conduct on-farm inspections, quarantine geographic areas over food-safety problems, create a tracing system for all food and require additional records to be kept. The provision will apply to the grain side of diversified livestock and grain operations.

NPPC pointed out that USDA already can quarantine animals when a state asks it to for animal health reasons, and it has an animal identification system that can trace back an animal to its farm of origin. NPPC also noted that farmers keep records according to state laws and industry programs and that complying with FDA record-keeping requirements would necessitate them overhauling their current record-keeping systems.

Some “issues” with the bill
“We are pleased that the Energy and Commerce Committee addressed our key concerns with the food-safety legislation,” said NPPC President Don Butler, “They recognised that USDA has sufficient authority and the expertise to oversee livestock and poultry operations. But we still have some issues with the bill.”

What remains unclear, said NPPC, is whether the bill, for example, would allow FDA to conduct an on-farm inspection of or quarantine the livestock side of a diversified operation that has a food-safety issue with the grain side of its business.

H.R. 2749, which the energy committee approved by voice vote, still must be considered by the full House; the Senate has a separate food-safety bill. NPPC, which supports strengthening the U.S. food-safety system, will continue to work with congressional lawmakers to resolve other areas of concern with food-safety legislation.

During consideration of the House bill, Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., offered an amendment to ban the use in livestock of certain antibiotics. Although the amendment was withdrawn, the move could be a harbinger of future efforts to include an antibiotics ban in legislation. NPPC opposes restrictions on animal health products.

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