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Group Implores Senate to Reject House Version of Food Safety Bill, Start Anew to Genuinely Improve Food Safety

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Washington, D.C. -- R-CALF USA has thoroughly analyzed the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749) passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and has determined that it fails to address the three fundamental failures of the nation's current food safety system that are causing a marked increase in food-born illnesses. Formal correspondence explaining the group's concerns and recommendations regarding food safety reform was sent to all 99 U.S. Senators today.

"We have communicated our reasons for opposing H.R. 2749 by explaining the serious and significant flaws in the current U.S. food safety system that the House version would build upon," said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry. "In fact, any attempt to remedy our food safety problems by building upon the three failed components currently in place will have the opposite effect that the House intended."

In its formal letter the group informed U.S. Senators that the United States' food safety problems will persist unless Congress addresses their root causes, which are unique to the United States and are three-fold:

1. Current food policies promote and facilitate the consolidation and contraction of independent farmers and ranchers and this is inherently dangerous to both food safety and food security.

2. Sound U.S food safety standards were weakened when Congress acquiesced to international standards that prohibit it from targeting food safety problems originating in foreign countries with stricter standards -- unless Congress first applies the stricter standards to the U.S., regardless of whether the stricter standards are applicable to the U.S. food production system.

3. Congress' adoption of the internationally-touted HACCP [1] food safety system hampers Congress' ability to ensure that even existing food safety requirements are properly followed.

Thornsberry said that R-CALF USA is urging the U.S. Senate to take the following steps to improve food safety:

1. Correct and reverse the three above-listed fundamental deficiencies in our food system that makes genuine food safety in the U.S. unattainable.

2. Reestablish food safety standards previously weakened when Congress acquiesced to international standards, and then direct agencies responsible for food safety to begin hands-on inspection and enforcement of U.S. food safety standards for all imported food and for food processing facilities where food contamination is known to frequently occur.

3. Do not accord international standards more weight than is accorded any other standards, such as those recommended in studies by U.S. land grant universities.

4. Do not presume that international standards -- designed specifically to facilitate trade -- are appropriate standards to be imposed on U.S. farmers and ranchers or that corporate food processors can adequately police themselves under HACCP. International standards must not be referenced or cited in U.S. food safety statutes, and HACCP must be reformed.

5. Take no action that would impose any additional regulatory burdens on any U.S. farmer or rancher, including any requirement to register their farms and ranches with the federal government or participate in a federally mandated food traceability program.

6. If Congress suspects that a particular segment of U.S. production agriculture is contributing to food safety problems, a formal risk and hazard analysis must be conducted to determine the specific practice(s) that caused or contributed to the food safety problem and the specific type of farming operation involved in that practice (i.e., an independent farming operation or an industrialized food production unit) to determine the specific corrective actions needed.

"The House bill is a classic example of addressing only the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself," Thornsberry pointed out. "The problem is that the U.S. has lowered its import standards to facilitate higher-risk food imports; it has abrogated its duty to inspect and enforce food safety standards both here and abroad by allowing processing plants to regulate themselves under the failed HACCP system; and, it has embraced policies that have driven independent farmers and ranchers out of business by the hundreds of thousands, replacing them with corporate-owned, industrialized food production units that have a propensity to cut food safety corners to maximize corporate profits.

"We urge the Senate to recognize that independent U.S. farmers and ranchers deserve no less from Congress than to be presumed careful, conscientious, and law abiding food producers -- a reputation earned by them while feeding this great nation during the past two centuries," he emphasized. "R-CALF looks forward to working with Congress to make improvements to food safety in the U.S. that will not penalize independent producers, but instead will correct our food safety problems at their primary source -- in under-inspected food packing and food processing facilities located in foreign countries and in the United States."

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R-CALF USA, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated (more...)

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