Tell your Representative Not to Go Backwards on Food Safety

A new amendment, called Section 123, was quietly added to Title I of the 2007 Farm Bill a few weeks ago, and it is a huge step backwards on food safety. If passed, it would hamstring state and local food safety efforts by wiping out critical authority on meat, poultry and biotechnology.

The sweeping language of Section 123 would prevent states from prohibiting the sale of USDA-inspected products. This provision could prevent local health inspectors at a supermarket from condemning contaminated meat or spoiled poultry! Since 90% of food inspections are done at the state and local level, the impact could be severe.

Section 123 also prohibits states from passing laws that protect animal welfare, such as laws on horse slaughter and sale of horsemeat.

Finally, Section 123 prohibits state and local laws on biotechnology -- such as laws to review whether or not to grow genetically-engineered rice in a state.

After recent problems with Melamine in pet and livestock feed, Listeria in chicken, and E. coli in spinach and ground beef, we should be strengthening our food safety system, not weakening it! Tell your Representative to stand up for food safety and oppose Section 123 in the Farm Bill.

Oppose Section 123 in the Farm Bill!

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to ask you to urge Representative Colin Peterson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, to delete Section 123 of Title I from the 2007 Farm Bill. The language in this section of the Farm Bill prevents states from passing laws to prohibit sale or use of products that the USDA has "1) inspected and passed; or 2) determined to be of non-regulated status."

This broad language would seriously undermine food safety programs and stop states and localities from regulating biotechnology or mandating humane animal treatment.

At present, state and local agencies conduct 90% of all food inspections and routinely condemn food found not fit for human consumption. Section 123 appears to prevent local health inspectors at a supermarket from condemning rodent-contaminated meat or spoiled poultry. State food safety programs which routinely test for Listeria in meat cold cuts, E. coli 0157:H7 in ground beef and Salmonella in processed eggs would be prevented from condemning any foods found positive for these disease-causing organisms. Given that many of the huge voluntary meat recalls by USDA resulted from testing at the state and local levels, not the federal level, removing states ability to take immediate action would represent a huge step backward for food safety.

Section 123 would prohibit state and local laws on humane animal treatment, such as laws on slaughter of horses and sale of horse meat.

Finally, state and local laws on biotechnology--such as local bans on the planting of GMOs or state laws in California, Arkansas and Missouri which allow them to determine whether or not to grow genetically-engineered rice--would be prohibited as well.

Section 123 represents a huge step backward for food safety and animal welfare. The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), which are represents state and local food safety officials, have come out against Section 123, as have Consumers Union, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, National Environmental Trust and more than 30 other groups.

Given the problems in the last four months with melamine-contaminated animal feed from China being fed to at least tens of thousands of hogs and millions of chickens, with recall of more than 2.8 million pounds of cooked chicken due to Listeria contamination, and 5.7 million pounds of ground beef potentially contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7--we need to more food safety protection, not less.

I urge you oppose Section 123, Title I, and to reject any Farm Bill language that pre-empts states rights to pass laws to enforce food safety, environmental and animal welfare concerns.

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