Merkley: Historic Food Safety Bill Will Protect Families and Small Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced that today the U.S. Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization Act by a vote of 73 to 25. This bill provides historic modernization to our food safety systems while giving small family farms reasonable exemptions to continue operating without unnecessary regulation.

“As a parent, I know there are many dangers out there for children, but parents shouldn’t have to worry about the food in their kids’ lunch boxes making them seriously ill,” said Merkley. “This bill will help pull our food safety systems into the 21st century and make it easier to trace contaminated food to its source and quickly get those foods off store shelves.”

This bill requires the FDA to create rules for tracing processed food.  Senator Merkley worked to include this provision after he heard harrowing stories from Oregon parents whose children became seriously ill from processed foods. Many times officials know that a food product is contaminated, yet there is no comprehensive system to track the different types of processed foods that contain that food product.

While creating a safer food system is necessary, Senator Merkley believes that these new protections must be implemented in a way that allows small farms – family farms –to operate successfully and without unnecessary restrictions that could hinder their production. Senator Merkley was pleased that a provision by Senator Tester was included in the final bill to provide reasonable exemptions for the very smallest farms and processors.

“Improving the safety of our food supply is essential, but it must be done in a manner that supports our small farms and farming families,” said Merkley.  “We must protect smaller farms from rules written for industrial-size processors.  That’s why Senator Tester’s provision to shield small farms from burdensome regulation is so crucial.  It strikes the right balance.”

This bill now heads to the House of Representatives, which passed its own version of the bill in 2009.