Oregon Sen. Moves to Protect Organic and Sustainable Farmers in Food Safety Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 16, 2009

Merkley: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Protects Families and Assists Farmers Food Safety Package Includes Merkley’s Provisions to Strengthen Food Safety Protections and Preserve Organic Farming and Sustainable Agriculture Industries Washington, D.C. –Today the Senate took another step closer to passing legislation that will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the resources it needs to ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply.  The Senate Agriculture Committee released the chairman’s draft of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes Merkley’s provisions to improve traceability of contaminated processed foods and protect the organic farming and sustainable agriculture industries.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 will strengthen the FDA’s ability to protect the nation’s food supply by enacting comprehensive reforms that will improve capacity to detect and respond to contamination outbreaks, provide food safety training for small farmers and food processors and enact strong preventive measures for food imports. Improving the traceability of contaminated processed food products could have prevented what happened to Jake Hurley from Wilsonville, Oregon.  Three-year-old Jake suffered food poisoning after eating peanut butter crackers.  While there was a recall on the specific brand of contaminated peanut butter; its use in the crackers was not tracked and the crackers were not recalled even though they contained unsafe ingredients. “Jake became sick because the current system failed to trace the contaminated peanut butter to the crackers,” said Merkley.  “We can do better.  We must make sure that strong food safety protections are in place to protect our families from food-borne illnesses.” At Merkley’s request, the legislation will require the FDA to conduct a pilot project to find the best method to trace contaminated processed food and report back to Congress with recommendations to improve food safety. “I’m very excited and encouraged by the work that Senator Merkley has done on food safety legislation,” said Jake’s father Peter Hurley.  “It is appropriate and reasonable to ask the FDA what the best practices are in processed food traceability because they will be the ones administering and enforcing this bill.  This is a huge step forward in protecting people like my son and Americans across the country.” In addition, Merkley was successful in including in the legislation provisions to protect organic farming and sustainable agriculture industries.  In a recent letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Tom Harkin, Merkley pushed to ensure that there aren’t conflicting regulations that would harm their business.  Read the entire letter here. “Oregon farmers, schools and restaurant owners have forged strong partnerships to provide locally grown, sustainable food for our families,” said Merkley.  “We should work to strengthen those relationships while enacting policies to make sure that the food parents are packing in school lunches and putting on the dinner table is safe to eat.”

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