Corporate Agribusiness Proposes Regulating Itself
Instead of Stricter Governmental Food Safety Oversight
CORNUCOPIA, WI: USDA hearings begin this week on a proposal that would authorize the development of production and handling regulations for a long list of fresh vegetables, primarily leafy greens. The first of seven national hearings starts Tuesday, September 22 in Monterey, California, and then will shift to other locations across the country.
The proposed marketing agreement would allow leafy green handlers to attach a USDA-backed "food safety seal" to lettuce, spinach, cabbage and other vegetables while prohibiting most organic and local farmers selling through farmers markets, CSAs, roadside stands, and those selling directly to retailers from using the same seal.
The plan, hatched and promoted by some of the nation's largest corporate agribusinesses that distribute vegetables, is similar to a controversial California agreement that was put into place after spinach, contaminated with E. coli bacteria, sickened 199 people in 26 states and left three dead in September, 2006.
"This proposed food safety agreement will do nothing to tackle the root cause of the food safety problem, which is, in most cases, manure from confined animal feeding operations that is tainted with disease causing pathogenic bacteria," said Will Fantle, of the Wisconsin-based farm policy group, The Cornucopia Institute.
Industry proponents pushing this will be hard pressed to demonstrate that their proposal will actually prevent food borne illness. Just days ago, on September 18, Ippolito International, a signatory to the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, recalled 1,715 cartons of spinach due to salmonella contamination.