At this time a year ago, political analysts were betting the Senate’s version of the Food/Feed Safety bill, S. 510, would have passed in Q1 of 2010. Now, as we close in on the end of the year, it still hasn’t reached the floor and obstacles continue to hinder its passage.
In July of 2009, the House of Representatives passed the first version of the Food/Feed Safety bill (H.R. 2749) and Congress was slated to vote on the legislation shortly after the Healthcare Reform bill was passed. When it passed in March 2010, S. 510 was on track to be voted on by early October.
But today it is unlikely Senate floor action before November’s elections will be a possibility due to resistance by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Coburn believes that any additional appropriations authorized to finance the estimated $1.4 billion cost over the next five years should be fully offset by spending cuts. To this, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded on Sept. 16 by announcing consideration of the bill would be postponed until a lame-duck session of Congress after the November elections.
Certainly much has changed over the past year, and associations such as the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) have worked diligently with lawmakers to serve the interests of the feed industry.
Richard Sellers, AFIA vice president of feed regulation and nutrition, and Randy Gordon, NGFA vice president, communications and government relations, detail their respective association’s stance on key aspects of the legislation and identify which provisions of the bill may be harmful to feed mills, grain elevators and other facilities.
Clarifying food vs. feed
One of NGFA’s and AFIA’s main priorities in working with Congress on food safety legislation was to ensure that the legislation does not arbitrarily impose restrictions on feed production in the same manner as human food production.
Specifically, AFIA and NGFA worked with both House and Senate staff during development of their respective bills to ensure the legislation authorizes FDA to exempt or modify requirements for hazard analysis, preventive controls and written food/feed safety plans to recognizes the inherent differences between hazards that affect human food and food processing establishments versus those affecting animal feed and pet food manufacturing. Both bills contain several “firewalls” to ensure human food regulation does not inadvertently or arbitrarily constrain feed and pet food manufacturing.
Both bills also expressly recognize the appropriateness of current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) for developing written feed and pet food safety plans. In addition, the NGFA is working to include in the Senate bill a separate provision that would require FDA to recognize the impracticality of zero tolerances for the existence of certain naturally occurring contaminants when establishing future product-safety standards.
Product tracing and recalls
The House bill requires “full-pedigree” product tracing, including a requirement that FDA within two business days identify each person producing, manufacturing, processing, packing, transporting, storing or selling a food subject to a recall — even if that means tracing all the way back to the farm of origin.
The House bill also would require country-of-origin labeling on imported products until reaching final processing, which Gordon said is a sure-fire way to trigger trade disputes.
The House bill also delegates enormous power to FDA district offices to issue mandatory recalls and subpoenas, dictates prescriptive feed safety practices and access to confidential facility food/feed safety and food/feed defense plans without adequate confidentiality protections – all of which the NGFA opposes strongly, and has worked to avert in the Senate bill.