Seeing Michael Pollan speak was on my list of things to do. When it was announced he was coming to Santa Barbara, I marked it on my calendar. But somehow, I got busy. Let’s see, there was a birthday party to plan and a book club dinner to prepare for. By the time I looked up, it was Thursday evening and the event was sold out. If you know me well, you may have heard this sentence come out of my mouth, “things just tend to work out.” Thursday was a prime example of my life philosophy. I decided to take a chance and go down the Granada Theater early to see if anyone was selling a ticket. The end result? I got a FREE orchestra ticket from the director at my daughter’s school after they had a last minute cancellation. The bonus? The parking attendant was no longer at the kiosk, so I got free parking too.
The event was billed, An Evening with Michael Pollan in Conversation with Renee Montagne. The newly remodeled Granada stage featured two oversized, tan leather chairs and a coffee table filled with a mound of whole fruits and vegetables (although from my vantage point, they looked fake). Michael walked onstage with Renee, he in an slim-profile olive suit, her in a black dress ensemble. Renee announced that this would be a casual event; she would ask questions first and then there would be an audience Q&A at the end. The theater has a strict policy against the use of cell phones during any show, so I was forced to take notes on my program in the dark. I did my best to get exact quotes, but some may be slightly off (since I couldn’t read all my own handwriting).
Wondering which food products have been recalled lately? Do you have a serious food allergy and need allergy alerts? Do you want to see a picture of the item recalled along with UPC numbers? Need to check on a particular food? Check out this announcement from the FDA regarding their new (and much needed) food recall web page.
On April 4, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new consumer-friendly Web search for use during recalls. Consumers will now be able to search for food and other product recalls easier and quicker on the FDA’s website. To provide greater ease of use for consumers, the search results will now provide data from news releases and other recall announcements in the form of a table. That table organizes information from news releases on recalls since 2009 by date, product brand name, product description, reason for the recall and the recalling firm. The table also provides a link to the news release on each recall for more detailed information. The news releases were chosen as the source of information for the table because they provide the most up-to-date and user friendly information about any recall.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in January by President Obama, called for a more consumer-friendly recall search engine within 90 days after the law went into effect. Per the requirements of the FSMA, for certain recalls the search results will also provide status information on whether the recall is completed or on-going. The status information will be provided for those recalls that FDA either ordered a mandatory recall or provided the opportunity for a voluntary recall under FDA’s FSMA authority.
Late this evening, President Obama signed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (S.510 included in HR 2751 bill). This extremely controversial bill has been debated for almost a year. The new legislation focuses giving the FDA authority to prevent foodborne illnesses instead of just reacting to them. Opponents of the bill worry that the FDA already has too much power and has not demonstrated actions in the best interest of consumers. The bill comes with a sizeable price tag: $1.4 billion over 5 years. The cost alone was enough to cause an uproar, especially amongst conservatives. Supporters of the bill point to the many recent foodborne illness attacks in recent years and the fact that the FDA’s food safety system has not seen major changes in over 70 years. Here is an overview of what we can expect:
The FDA will be required to develop new scientific standards for fruit and vegetable producers to use in their growing/harvesting and production. Meat and poultry are not covered under this legislation since it is regulated by the USDA.
The bill gives the FDA authority to issue a mandatory recall. Currently, they can only recommend a recall and must
This video from PBS features an interview with Erik Olson of the Pew Charitable Trust. Mr. Olson worked with Congress to shape the Food Safety legislation and answers many frequently asked questions about the bill. This is a great video to understand the basics of how the bill will change things and when changes will be implemented.
Yesterday, the House agreed to the Senate amendments on the Food Safety Bill HR 2751 by a vote of 215 Yeas and 144 Nays. The FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act (formerly S.510 and HR 3082) has taken a dramatic number of twists and turns through our judicial system over the last 4 months.
There have been many questions surrounding small farms. Was a version of the Tester Amendment included? Are small farms a part of the bill or are they exempt? The final amendment defines a food establishments as:
“… the term ‘‘retail food establishment… (A) the sale of such food products or food directly to consumers by such establishment at a roadside stand or farmers’ market where such stand or market is located other than where the food was manufactured or processed; (B) the sale and distribution of such food through a community supported agriculture program…”
After reading the exception section (page 18), it does appear that “very small businesses,” small farms, and small facilities with average sales of less than $500,000 (adjusted for inflation) are exempt from some of the requirements.
Click to see the actual full text amendment. At this point we wait to see if the president will sign the bill (all signs are indicating that he will). Want to know how your representative voted? See the full list of votes here.
Library of Congress
In the ongoing saga of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), we learned this morning that the act is now included in yet different bill. Twelve days ago we reported that S.510 was added to the Military Construction & Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (HR 3082). The new bill? HR 2751, formerly known as the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act. According to the Senate website, HR 2751 is currently active and may receive floor action this week:
“Food safety, overhaul safety inspection process and authorize HHS Secretary to issue recalls
(Senate inserted amended text of S.510 into H.R.2751 on Dec. 19, then passed the House-numbered measure.)”
HR 2751 passed in the Senate with a unanimous, unrecorded vote last night and now moves back to the House for a final vote before it goes before the president.
UPDATE: 12/9/10 – The House passed its amendment to the Senate amendment. HR 3082 is back in the Senate for a vote.
Natural News is reporting that The Food Safety and Modernization Act has been “hidden” in an amendment to another bill, HR 3082. Upon researching HR 3082, it is deemed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010. Not a bill that has much to do with food safety if you ask me!
In looking at the text of the amendment, Food Safety has been included (on page 185 – Division D – Food Safety). Exactly what version of S.510 and if the Tester Amendment was included is not clear. The House will likely vote on HR 3082 and its amendment today or tomorrow. The saga of this bill continues.