September 28, 2016

DARK Act Defeated in Senate

H.R. 1599, ironically labeled the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015," otherwise known as the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" or DARK Act, was defeated in the U.S. Senate last week as S.R. 2621. Senators did not have enough votes for cloture, and the bill faced bi-partisan opposition. The bill would have preempted states from requiring labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Food companies developed the legislation. The bill would also have continued the voluntary labeling system that lets companies use 1-88 numbers, URLs, QR codes, and social media to tell consumers about the GMOs they use in their products. It would have allowed the USDA to determine what GMO information is provided through the system. And it would have made it harder for … [Read more...]

CFA Disappointed with Food Safety Funding Budget Request

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is disappointed with the President's FY 17 budget request for food safety funding for the Food and Drug Administration, which proposes almost no new funding for food safety activities. Thomas Gremillion, Director of Food Policy at CFA said in a statement, "with the Food Safety Modernization Act, Congress recognized the need for FDA to implement a new system - one that prevents foodborne illness rather than reacting to it after the fact. FDA needs adequate funding to take on its new oversight responsibilities under FSMA. The President's budget will mean more delay in implementing the law, which Americans will pay for in the form of avoidable hospitalizations and deaths caused by foodborne illness." FSMA passed through Congress in 2010. The FDA … [Read more...]

Food Policy Action Releases Congressional Scorecard

Food Policy Action, a coalition of Environmental Working Group and other agencies, has published its Congressional scorecard for the year. Other members of the agency include the Humane Society of the United States, Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Oxfam America, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others. The stated mission is to "highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm … [Read more...]

Senator Asks for Investigation into Quincy IL Legionnaires’ Outbreak

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate that the Quincy Illinois Veterans' Home is taking the proper steps in the deadly Legionnaires' outbreak. Fifty-four people have been sickened with Legionnaires' Disease in that part of the state, and 13 people have died, including one person who was not living at the Veterans' Home. The Illinois Department of Public Health just released an update on this outbreak. Durbin wrote, "The Illinois Veterans' Home-Quincy is the largest and oldest veterans' home in Illinois, providing long-term care for veterans and their families since its inception in 1886. However, the size of the campus and the age of its infrastructure and plumbing have made it … [Read more...]

Spending Bill Cuts $93 Million from WIC

The huge spending bill passed by Congress last week cuts $93,000,000 from the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That program gives low-income mothers and children vouchers for food that meets nutrition guidelines. WIC has been one of the most successful government programs in history. Both WIC and SNAP add money to local economies. In fact, every five dollars in SNAP benefits generates nine dollars in community spending. And the food purchased by SNAP recipients generates 3,000 farm jobs. In addition, every study shows that WIC improves birth outcomes. Almost half of the participants in SNAP are children. Legislators did require the WIC program to add white potatoes to the foods on the allowed list, pandering to industry lobbyists. … [Read more...]

More Food Safety Election Day News

The election may be over, but the food movement is still making news about ballot initiatives and members of Congress. In Oregon, the initiative to label genetically engineered foods is still too close to call. Measure 92 is only 6,900 votes behind, and enough absentee ballots are still outstanding that it may pass. The ballots will be counted until November 18. In Maui, voters passed an initiative to "prohibit the growth, testing, or cultivation of genetially engineered crops" until environmental and public health studies show they are safe. The opposition, consisting mostly Monsanto and Dow Chemical, spent $362 per vote and still lost. Voters in California's Humboldt County also voted to ban GE crops from their farmlands. Four other counties in California already ban these … [Read more...]

Coalition Supporting COOL Change Sends Letter to Congress

Last week a U.S. District Court of Appeals refused to rehear the country-of-origin (COOL) labeling dispute between the United States and the World Trade Organization, effectively making COOL the law of the land. After this decision, stakeholders known as COOL Reform Coalition sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to "immediately authorize and direct the Secretary of Agriculture to rescind elements of COOL that have been deemed to be non-compliant with international trade obligations." That coalition is comprised of organizations such as Hormel Foods, ConAgra, Cargill, National Beef Packing Company, Smithfield Foods, Abbott, Anheuser-Busch, Archer Daniels Midland, Nestle USA, Nestle Waters North America, Unilever, Tyson Foods, and the North American Meat Association. They are … [Read more...]

Health Groups Ask Congress for More Money for FSMA

Several health advocacy groups have written a letter, asking Congress to add $50 million to the FDA’s fiscal year 2015 budget to full fund implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). FDA has estimated that it needs an additional $300 million over the next few years to fully implement the law, which was the first reform of the nation’s food safety regulations in years. FDA is finalizing the rules of the law and is building the systems needed to implement it. FSMA changed FDA’s approach to food safety, focusing the agency’s efforts on preventing food safety problems before they occur rather than reacting to illnesses and outbreaks after they occur. The comprehensive food import oversight system section of FSMA is a first, making importer responsible for the safety … [Read more...]

Senators Ask President for Increased NARMS Funding

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are asking the President to increase funding for the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) in a letter sent to the White House on Monday, September 22, 2014. The senators are asking for $15 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget. The senators say that "combatting the mounting threat of antibiotic resistance in foodborne pathogens is one of our top priorities, and NARMS is key in this effort." Last week the White House released a report on combating antibiotic resistance, along with a National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria and a Presidential Executive Order which emphasizes the importance of this work. The CDC estimates that 2,000,000 people develop … [Read more...]

Members of Congress Want to See Full Funding for FSMA

Members of the U.S. House Roda DeLauro (D-CT) and Sam Farr (D-CA) sent a letter last week to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ask them to fully fund the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) rather than relying on user fees. In the fiscal year 2015 budget, the FDA requested $1.48 million for food safety, which includes $255 million in proposed user fees. Their letter states that "FDA must have the resources to retrain the existing inspection workforce, hire new staff, and contract with states to leverage their inspection forces. Continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness undermine consumer confidence and greatly concern those of us who supported FSMA and want it to be implemented … [Read more...]

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