Good to see that the Senate is set to pass S. 510, a bill that would help regulate food producers. By way of background, we’ve had a lot of outbreaks of food-related disease due to unsafe and unregulated food producers. The problem is exacerbated by the rise of large scale farming. When unregulated and unsafe producers are large scale, the havoc caused by tainted food spreads far and wide.
That’s how we get the salmonella and E. coli outbreaks. A bad peanut processor in Georgia can cause havoc here in Oregon. Food-borne sickness causes 5,000 deaths a year and 300,000 hospitalizations. That’s a serious safety issue.
To hear opponents talk about it, the passage of amendments to our food safety laws represents a profound danger of government meddling and over-regulation. On my Facebook page, a family member posted a link to an article arguing that the FDA would soon be outlawing gardeners from saving seeds. There is nothing in the bill that allows anyone to rationally make that argument. Apart from that, the FDA does not have authority or power to regulate home gardens and purely local food producers who sell in-state.
I understand fears of overreaching by the federal government. I’m hardly an apologist for the government. And I’m also a longtime organic gardener, farmers market shopper and supporter of local agriculture. Still, we need to be able to trust our food supply. Seems to me that we shouldn’t have to worry that the peanut butter we buy at the store might be tainted. Kids, sick people, and the elderly are at high risk for dangerous food-borne illnesses. Seems like we should choose safety over fear.