Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Food safety" bills exempt foreign countries but are HACCP on steroids for America

DTN Headline News
Imported Food Safety a Priority
By Jerry Hagstrom

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Thursday he plans to make the safety of imported food a priority as Congress attempts to reform the nation's food safety system.
Is he referring to the large number of "food safety" bills in Congress?

It is clear from even a superficial reading of HR 875 that "the Administrator" is set up to allow for a variance (exemption) for foreign food, one of the few (or only?) in the bill.

(d) VARIANCES.-States and foreign countries that export produce intended for consumption in the United States may request from the Administrator variances from the requirements of the regulations under subsection (c).

To give Peterson the benefit of the doubt, he must not have read the bill.  

Mr. Peterson received these contributions and OCA calls him an agribusiness and biotech cheerleader . 

Industry Donation % of total
Agribusiness $542,134 50.2 %
Labor $129,500 12.0 %
Finance/Insur/RealEst $111,929 10.4 %
Misc Business $79,192 7.3 %
Energy/Nat Resource $43,494 4.0 %
Lawyers & Lobbyists $42,980 4.0 %
Ideology/Single-Issue $28,606 2.6 %
Health $26,200 2.4 %
Transportation $23,600 2.2 %
Construction $19,400 1.8 %
Communic/Electronics $18,750 1.7 %
Defense $7,500 0.7 %
Other $7,500 0.7 %


And who would run any new centralized "food safety" agency and decide this issue of the inspection of foreign food?

"Apparently, President Obama is considering appointing Michael Taylor to head the new Food Safety Working Group.  Who's Michael Taylor?  From Food Politics"

"Mr. Taylor is a lawyer who began his revolving door adventures as counsel to FDA. He then moved to King & Spalding, a private-sector law firm representing Monsanto, a leading agricultural biotechnology company. In 1991 he returned to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy, where he was part of the team that issued the agency's decidedly industry-friendly policy on food biotechnology and that approved the use of Monsanto's genetically engineered growth hormone in dairy cows. His questionable role in these decisions led to an investigation by the federal General Accounting Office, which eventually exonerated him of all conflict-of-interest charges. In 1994, Mr. Taylor moved to USDA to become administrator of its Food Safety and Inspection Service... After another stint in private legal practice with King & Spalding, Mr. Taylor again joined Monsanto as Vice President for Public Policy in 1998.

"The man has moved in and out of roles at the federal government and Monsanto so many times he probably has whiplash."  

The DTN describes him as "Michael Taylor, a George Washington University health policy professor who served as a deputy FDA commissioner," omitting his controversial past history of approving the first genetically engineered product ever, for Monsanto, or his work with Monsanto. 

And Taylor is now on record as saying he wants less inspection:  "We need to complete the transformation of FSIS as a food safety agency, away from inspection to a science-based public health agency."

Carol Tucker Foreman agrees.  

She just testified that Congress should give the FDA's food safety division a mandate to prevent food-borne illness rather than continue its current mandate to stop the spread of illness after it breaks out.  (That is, eliminate inspections used to spot problems that do exist.)

And who is Carol Tucker Foreman? 
Carol Tucker Foreman, a fellow at the Consumer Federation of Americawas "an outspoken lobbyist on behalf of Monsanto's rBGH ..."  [She] not only illustrates what can and often does frequently happen to ex-Washington liberals, but also calls into question whether some self-proclaimed consumer organizations now see their constituencies as consumers or corporations."

Foreman's advocacy on behalf of Monsanto's rBGH, is "but one example of her ability ... to favor corporate interests over the best interests of consumers."

Rod Leonard, long-time consumer activist and current executive director of the Community Nutrition Institute wrote that "Carol Foreman ... a newly minted Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, approved that year a change in food safety procedures that would have far reaching consequences. Foreman, one of only a few consumer advocates to reach so high a federal post, decided that poultry visibly smeared with fecal matter could be safely eaten after the feces was washed away. 

"Federal inspectors, until Foreman's ruling, would condemn the contaminated bird as unsafe or require the visible contaminated part to be cut away. The washing rule was a profitable boon to poultry processors who no longer faced the loss of unsafe product. ...

New research studies, he continues, also confirm a finding of a decade earlier that drug resistance in bacteria in poultry and other food animals can be transferred to bacteria in humans. Experts now agree that introducing in animal and poultry feed the same antibiotics used to treat humans can quickly lead to drug resistant bacteria. FDA found the sharpest rise in flouoquinolones resistance occurred after 1996 when the drug was authorized as a poultry feed additive.

"Reviewing past mistakes has more than passing historical interest," Leonard notes, "Foreman is now revisiting the public interest scene as a newly minted consumer advocate, having recently announced her retirement as a Washington lobbyist for various corporate interests, including Monsanto, a corporation that is building its stock value through manipulating genes to make genetically modified foods as well as public policy on food safety, i.e., lobbying."

...  Leonard recounts that her 1976 decision (see above) on the simple washing of fecal contamination "was wrong and the magnitude of its impact in terms of death and illness among Americans is reason enough to examine cautiously the next policy action on food safety which Foreman will advocate from her new platform at CFA

At that point Foreman was "one of the most vociferous supporters of Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Program (HACCP), an awkward acronym for a program to deregulate food safety. 

"The major reason for Foreman's renewed interest in food safety, however, is contained in her explanation for returning to CFA, i.e., she will seek to develop policies `that assure food safety in a global economy.'  HACCP [was] the keystone of President Clinton's globalization strategy to restrict the ability of Congress and of citizens at risk of health to make food safety a political, or policy issue.

" Under HACCP, governments withdraw from inspection for food safety as a public responsibility in favor of company-based inspection. Food products in global trade would be certified for safety by governments as equivalent, i.e., a government license would be granted pro forma to move products across national borders since food safety is a company decision. Countries that balk would be charged with a violation of their obligation to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and threatened with higher tariffs or financial penalties. 

"An unlikely scenario?" Leonard asks. "In fact, the U.S. already is threatening the European Union with trade retaliations for rejecting U.S. beef treated with growth hormones and genetically modified foods created by Monsanto and other biotechnology firms. If the U.S. does not adopt HACCP for meat and poultry, among the most high volume products in global trade, then Clinton's globalization strategy to put food safety beyond the reach of citizens will collapse." ...

"Foreman once again will undoubted be lobbying along side a familiar ally, her former client Monsanto, to make HACCP the global food safety policy."  
[Emphasis, yupfarming's.]

Thanks to Foreman and others, HACCP passed.  Inspections went down, illnesses went up, the food system became greatly centralized into corporate hands, safe local processors shut down (72 in Kansas alone) and inspectors now sue the USDA to be able to inspect .

She appears to be "once again ... lobbying along side a familiar ally, her former client Monsanto, to make ... global food safety policy." 

What has HACCP - a "scienced-based" program such as Monsanto's Taylor and Foremanare now promoting (she having previously helped push HACCP through under Clinton) - done for this country's "food safety":

Here is
how HACCP's "science-based" system has performed in an actual case:

Top USDA officials actively covered-up the problems at ConAgra, allowing tainted meat to flow month after month into the stream of commerce under the USDA seal of wholesomeness. Numerous whistleblowers during GAP's investigation disclosed that top USDA officials took actions to shield the giant food conglomerate from complying with food safety laws while using the same laws to bully small, often family-run, businesses.

"... Day by day, our suspicions increase that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is in cahoots with ConAgra. We have conducted our own investigation into the ConAgra tainted meat recall and our ample evidence proves that the USDA aggressively enforced a 'Don't Look, Don't Tell' [no inspections] policy in its dealings with ConAgra," said Devine.

The key findings of the investigative report include:

* The American public's exposure to E. coli o157:H7 began at least two years before ConAgra's tainted meat recall in June of 2002.

* The USDA's records system is fundamentally flawed and is designed to avoid knowing the source of tainted beef.

* ConAgra slickly took advantage of the government's noninterference policy of "Don't Look, Don't Tell." [No inspections.]

* The USDA engages in persistent, ugly retaliation against anyone who attempted to expose its dereliction of duty: To inform the public of tainted meat coming into the stream of commerce. The USDA aided and abetted ConAgra in blaming its problems on a small, family-owned meat processor in Montana

* A regulatory double standard has comprised the integrity of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety program. HACCP was designed as an early warning system on finding deadly contaminants in food. The USDA used HACCP to protect ConAgra, not the consumer.

* The facts demonstrating ConAgra's strong-arm tactics against a small producer perpetuate a longstanding USDA pattern where the messenger is blamed and chosen as the fall guy.

"Due to politically motivated, self-serving and arbitrary practices by the USDA, I have been forced to list my business for sale," said John Munsell, owner of Montana Quality Foods and whose experience with ConAgra and USDA is the catalyst for GAP's investigation. "My meat processing plant has been in my family for 57 years.  When I tried to report the truth of this tainted meat tragedy last summer, I learned that  the USDA is against the truth and for shielding the big guy from public embarrassment. The consumer and small producers like me are the losers in this game."

Munsell speaks of "the facade FSIS has orchestrated of the HACCP.  I intend to provide you irrefutable evidence in this letter not only to demonstrate how tracebacks to the origin are not being accomplished, but that FSIS policies have been specifically designed to prevent such tracebacks."

72 such small meat processors in Kansas alone were put out business by HACCP.

Is Hazardous Agribusiness Crushing Clean Producers?

Tucker Foreman testified, "I've come to think of the Food Safety and Inspection Service as the Rodney Dangerfield of food safety. It gets no respect despite having made major strides in the past 15 years to improve its food safety efforts."  

USDA inspectors say food inspection is "just a joke.".  
"They [meatpacking companies] write their own plan," said one inspector, 
who asked to remain anonymous. 
"They write everything for themselves. 
We're 'monitoring' that now. It's just a joke. 
We mostly check paper now. You can put anything you want on paper."

The "food safety" bills in Congress are a second WTO-related plan intended to do what Monsanto's Taylor suggests - "move away from inspection," swapping it for an alleged "science-based" system like HACCP.  HACCP is small potatoes compared to the "food safety" plans now in those bills, but even puny HACCP massively centralized food into corporate hands and put the safe local processors out of business.  The new bills go much, much further, taking control over all food in the US - all farms, farmers markets, coops, gardens, church kitchens, homes -  adding immense police state power with warrantless searches, surveillance, penalties of up to a million dollars a day and ten years in prison - putting it all into the hands of one person ... with no judicial review.  

But we can rest easy.  Foreign food is safe ... from control.

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