Today, the US Senate voted in favor of the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), which passed the Senate by a 73 to 25 vote. The House passed a version of the bill with support from both sides of the political aisle back in July 2009, but was held up in the Senate. The good news is that S.510 was passed with provisions (from the Tester Amendment) to exempt small farms and food producers from the new legislation if they sell directly to consumers and bring in less than $500,000 in annual sales.
There has been a ton of support and opposition for this bill. Some report that this is the end of gardening, saving seeds and it will only be a matter of time before small farms are included under the larger FDA controls of the bill. Opposition comes from the folks at Natural News (they nicknamed it the “Food Tyranny Act”), the Weston A. Price Foundation, and the John Birch Society. Others support the move saying the FDA currently has very little power to actually do anything to prevent or address major food outbreaks. Interestingly, the movement has gained support from very unlikely allies including: Center for Science in the Public Interest, author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), and author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation).
The bill now moves back to congress so the former bill and the new bill can be reconciled. All indicators are showing that the newly revised bill will be passed by the House quickly in an attempt to try to get it completed by the end of the year (before new Congress members take their seats). Stay tuned…
The Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) has gathered support from both sides of the political aisle. If the Senate passes the measure today or tomorrow, it will go back to the House for a final vote. All indicators are showing that the bill will likely pass and the major question right now is whether they will pass it with the Tester Amendment or not. The Tester Amendment essentially exempts small farmers from the new controls if they earn less than $500,000 in annual sales and if they sell directly to consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores (as opposed to 3rd party food brokers). This likely includes the majority of the farmers and food producers you find at your local farmer’s market.
Many argue that FDA should not be given additional control over farms. Others say new regulation is critical to help fight outbreaks such as salmonella and E.coli. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, it is imperative that the food bill be passed WITH the Tester Amendment to exempt small farms.
This video takes a look at the ORGANIC egg industry. Terms like cage free and free range become meaningless when you see how most chickens in industrial farms are raised. The video shows thousands of birds in a huge warehouses and their “outdoor access” is one tiny hole in the wall. 99% of the chicken’s wouldn’t even know the hole existed. So what is an organic egg? The USDA states that organic eggs must be fed with organic feed and use no antibiotics (contrary to popular belief, the USDA does not permit the use of hormones in poultry production. Terms like “hormone-free” are meaningless since no egg producing chickens are given hormones).
After seeing this interesting exposé from the Cornucopia Institute on the organic egg industry, I decided to take a look at their Organic Egg Scorecard where they rate egg producers across the US. The scorecard rates egg farms based on a 22 different factors including, how much actual outdoor space the chickens have, what their indoor space is like, if they have natural light, chicken’s lifespan, and which agency certifies the farm organic. The farms with the highest scores received 5 eggs and the the lowest, 1 egg.
As many of you know, my family does much of our shopping at Trader Joe’s. Sometimes we buy eggs from farmer’s market, sometimes from Trader Joe’s (TJ’s brand Organic, Free Range Large Eggs). As I scanned the report for my eggs, I was shocked to see that they only received a 1 out of 5-egg score. The main reason for this? An unwillingness to share any information as to which farms the eggs come from and how the hens are raised. I understand that Trader Joe’s has an interest in keeping it’s private label brands private, but this is disheartening. I decided to make my concerns known and sent the following message to Trader Joe’s last week:
“We purchase TJ’s brand organic, free range eggs. I recently read the Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Egg Scorecard and was surprised to see that TJ’s eggs received an extremely low score. I understand that it is difficult to disclose information when you have private label products, but it makes me wonder how “organic” the eggs really are. I would appreciate some sort of response to reassure me that your eggs are produced in the most ethical and best standards. Also, I would like information as to if the eggs are purchased from small farm cooperatives or industrial farms and what sort of access they have to the outdoors. If you are not able to provide any information to counteract the report I read, I will have to assume it is accurate. My family does 95% of our shopping at Trader Joe’s and absolutely love your stores. Thank you in advance. I look forward to your reply.”
message sent to Trader Joe’s via their website “Contact Us” form
I haven’t heard back yet, but I will let you all know what I find out. The moral of this story is to try to buy eggs from farms who are open and happy to discuss their farming practices. This may include getting eggs from a co-op, farmer’s market, or a local family who raises chickens. Another option is to raise chickens yourself. Someday I hope to be able to have fresh eggs from my very own backyard.
For a look at the full report from the Cornucopia Institute, click here: Scrambled Eggs – Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture
Senator Jon Tester sponsored an amendment to the food safety bill (S. 510) to protect small, local food processors and producers. Watch the video to see the reasons why you should support the amendment to S. 510.
Retail Food Establishments:
In the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, Congress required that all facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food must register with FDA, but it exempted from that requirement “retail food establishments.” FDA defined the term at 21 CFR 1.227(b)(11). For purposes of the definition, the Tester amendment would require FDA to clarify that “direct sales” of food to consumers includes sales that occur other than where the food was manufactured, such as at a roadside stand or farmers’ market.
Be Food Smart is featured in this week’s Santa Barbara Independent magazine! If you are local in Santa Barbara, pick up your copy and check us out on page 41. Not local? Click on this link for the online story:
befoodsmart.com Guides Curious Eaters
Friday, November 19, 2010
Many thanks to George Yatchisin for writing an article on our new company and to Dad for making it happen.
Be Food Smart did a story on The Food Safety Modernization Act (S510) in August. It appears that S510 will be voted on in the Senate as early as Wednesday, Nov. 17. This bill would impose extremely burdensome and unnecessary requirements on the thousands of small farmers and food processors who are producing safe foods for their local communities. If passed, small farms would be subject to similar paperwork, reporting and inspection requirements to that of farms hundreds of times bigger. These requirements could pose such a large hardship on family farms that many could go out of business. Remember, this could affect virtually everything you buy at your local farmer’s market. Small family farms are not the problem with our country’s food safety!
A key amendment sponsored by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) would exempt small farmers who direct market more than 50% of their products. These famers must have gross sales (direct and non-direct combined) of less than $500,000, and sell to consumers, stores, or restaurants that are in-state or within 400 miles. This amendment is especially important for off-farm retail locations such as farmers markets and CSAs.
Please call your Senators today (most offices have voice mail where you can leave a message) and ask them to support the Tester Amendment on the Food Safety bill.
If you are a farmer this is important to protect your livelihood. If you are a consumer, where will you buy your safe and nutritious food if your local farmers are forced out of business?
This is the voice mail message you can leave as recommended by the Cornucopia Institute:
“I am a constituent of Senator___________. I ask that he/she support the Tester Amendment to the food safety bill. The Tester Amendment will exempt the safest, small, owner-operator farms and food facilities and farmers who direct market their products to consumers, stores or restaurants. Food safety legislation should not create inappropriate and costly regulatory barriers to family farms and the growing healthy food movement in the drive to crack down on corporate bad actors. Please support the Tester Amendment and market opportunities for small and mid-sized family farms, and small food processing facilities.”
Do you have an emergency dinner, something you prepare when you don’t have any other good ideas (cereal doesn’t count!)? Here is mine. We tend to have all these ingredients in the house, even when it gets close to shopping day. This meal is very popular with adults and kids. It has lots of protein and vegetables and is pretty quick to prepare. You can vary the recipe depending on what you have in the fridge (leftovers such as extra chicken or steak, steamed veggies, rice, etc.). It can be served anytime of day!
1-2 Tortillas per person (you can use either flour or corn)
1 can of Beans (black, kidney, pinto, or whatever you like)
1-2 Bell Peppers sliced into strips (red, yellow, or orange are sweetest)
1/2 or full medium-sized Onion cut into slices lengthwise (sweet onion if you have it)
1 Shallot cut into thin slices (optional)
Grated Cheese (any cheese will work, but I like medium cheddar)
1 Egg per person
Oil and/or Butter
Salt and Pepper
Optional toppings – sliced avocado or guacamole, diced tomato, leftover rice, sliced green onions, sweet corn, breakfast potatoes, cilantro
Condiments – salsa, ketchup, hot sauce, chili peppers, sour cream
Grate cheese and set aside. Prepare any of the toppings you are going to use and set aside. Crack eggs in a bowl, add salt and cracked pepper, whisk with fork, and set aside. Place beans in a small sauce pan and turn to lowest heat setting to simmer. If you have a toaster oven, turn on (bake setting/300/medium). Heat oil in skillet and saute bell peppers over medium-high heat, tossing regularly to avoid browning. Once they begin to soften, add onions and continue to stir regularly. When the onions soften, add shallots. Cook for a few more minutes until all veggies are tender, but still firm, and place into a bowl (cover with dish towel to keep warm). Add butter or more oil to the hot skillet and scramble the eggs. While eggs are cooking, place tortillas into toaster oven to warm (see below if you do not have a toaster oven). When eggs are done, place into a bowl. If you do not have a toaster oven but have a gas stove, place the tortillas over low flame to heat and soften. If you have neither, use the hot skillet to heat the tortillas individually.
Assembling the wraps:
Put plates on the counter and have all your ingredients ready. Place warmed tortilla on plate and fill with cheese, egg, bell pepper mixture and any toppings you are using. Serve immediately with an assortment of condiments on the table so people can top the wraps themselves. If you are feeling particularly tired, you can also put everything on the table and go at it taco style!