PDF _ RL34612 - Food Safety on the Farm: Federal Programs and Selected Proposals
8-Aug-2008; Geoffrey S. Becker; 13 p.

Update: Previous Editions:
Auguest 8, 2008

Abstract: Foodborne illness-causing bacteria on farms can enter the food supply unless preventive measures are in place to reduce them, either prior to or after harvest. Also of potential risk to the food supply are pesticide residues, animal drugs, and naturally occurring contaminants such as aflatoxin.> Interest in on-farm practices was renewed after more than 1,300 persons in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada were found to be infected with the same unusual strain of bacteria (Salmonella Saintpaul) in April-July 2008. Officials first suspected fresh tomatoes as the vehicle and later expanded their concerns to fresh jalapeño and serrano peppers. By late July, genetic tests confirmed the pathogen on samples of a serrano pepper and irrigation water from a farm in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Agricultural operations in the United States have been implicated in several previous outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Food safety experts agree that an effective, comprehensive food safety system should include consideration of potential hazards at the farm level. However, opinions differ on the need, if any, for more stringent, government-enforced safety standards for farms, as exist for processors and others in the food chain. This question and others, such as the potential cost of new interventions to producers, taxpayers, and consumers, are likely to arise as Congress debates new food safety bills.

The lead federal food safety agencies are the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates major species of meat and poultry and some egg products, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which regulates virtually all other foods. Generally, these agencies’ regulatory oversight of foods begins after the farm gate, at slaughter establishments and food handling and manufacturing facilities. However, various activities of these and other federal agencies involved in assuring the safety of the food supply can, and do, have an impact on how farms and ranches raise food commodities.

A number of the several dozen food safety bills introduced into the 110th Congress could affect farmers and ranchers, whether directly or indirectly. Several of these bills would expressly require enforceable on-farm safety standards. These include H.R. 1148, H.R. 5620, H.R. 5904, S. 654, and S. 2077. Others that focus primarily on post-harvest food safety measures nonetheless might lead to changes in on-farm practices if the regulated sectors (handlers and processors of agricultural products) place new demands of their suppliers in order to comply. These include H.R. 661, H.R. 962/S. 549, H.R. 992, H.R. 2678, H.R. 3484, H.R. 3485, H.R. 5069, H.R. 5762, S. 394, and S. 1292.

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Topics: Agriculture, General

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