In Wake of Massive Egg Recall, Bennet Renews Push to Protect Colorado Consumers, Improve Food Safety

Bipartisan Food Safety Bill Includes Bennet Amendment to Ensure Fair Requirements for Small and Mid-Sized Agriculture

Denver, CO – With the massive recall of millions of eggs across the country raising questions about food safety, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today renewed his call for the Senate to pass bipartisan legislation to protect Colorado consumers by ensuring the food they feed their families is safe and of the highest possible quality.   

“Making sure the food that finds its way onto Colorado’s dinner tables is safe is important to me not just as a Senator, but as a parent as well,” said Bennet.  “Colorado parents should be able to have some peace of mind knowing that the food they feed their families doesn’t unnecessarily put them or their kids in harm’s way. The egg recall offers further proof that we need to be doing more to protect consumers. It’s time to bring food safety in this country into the 21st century.”

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act represents a major food-safety overhaul that includes:

  •   Requiring food processing and other regulated facilities to conduct an analysis of the most likely safety hazards and to create controls to prevent them;
  •   Directing FDA to establish science-based “performance standards” for the most significant food contaminants and improving food-borne illness surveillance systems;
  •   Increasing frequency of inspections, extending oversight to certain types of agricultural production, and mandating product recalls if not done voluntarily;
  •   Establishing more scrutiny of food imports;
  •   Creating provisions for certifying or accrediting laboratories to conduct sampling and testing of food for oversight purposes.

The current food safety program is outdated and under-funded and cannot properly prevent or address food safety issues.  This bill will provide greater protections to prevent food-borne illness and give the FDA the tools to appropriately deal with any problems that arise.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act includes several provisions Bennet pushed for to reduce the regulatory burden on small and mid-size farms and producers.  Bennet’s amendment directs the FDA to make sure any guidance or regulations:

  •   Are practicable for all sizes and types of facilities;
  •   Minimize paperwork by taking risk into account;
  •   Minimize the number of separate standards that apply to any individual facility;
  •   Enable facilities to prepare their own food safety plans without the assistance of a consultant or third party, to the maximum extent possible.

“We need to make sure that these important new reforms protecting the safety of our food don’t unnecessarily jeopardize Colorado’s family farms,” said Bennet.  “These reforms will not work for Colorado’s small farms unless they are flexible and recognize the unique needs of our family farms and ranches.  The amendments I helped get in the bill support family farms by ensuring these reforms will work for all sizes and types of facilities.”

Bennet also supported two other amendments with the goal of protecting small and mid-sized agriculture while building robust and practical food safety protections.  One amendment provides training and technical assistance to small and mid-sized, beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers through the United States Department of Agriculture.  The other amendment ensures fair rulemaking for small facilities by having the FDA consider risk when applying requirements and allowing the FDA to concentrate on high risk facilities.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado epidemiologists noted that over the past two months there has been an increase in reported cases of Salmonella enteritidis. Historically, an average of seven cases of this strain are reported in Colorado during the months of June and July. However, in 2010, a total of 28 cases were reported in June and July. Some of this increase likely is linked to this egg recall, the Department has noted.