National Good Food Network banner image:
                photos of cows, organic produce, apples, semi truck,
                grocery bag
National Good Food Network

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sections
You are here: Home Resources NGFN Webinars Food Safety Briefing
Personal tools

Food Safety Briefing

A discussion of food safety issues (current in mid-Oct, 2009). MOFGA's interesting food safety protocols.

October 15, 2009: NGFN and Food Safety - An Interactive Briefing

Description

Food safety is one of the most critical and fastest moving topics in food systems today. The National Good Food Network Food Safety Coordinator, Steve Warshawer, leads a briefing with some of the leaders of the charge to ensure that small- and mid-sized producers are treated fairly as new laws are formed.

This webinar includes [what were then] up-to-the-minute reports from Aimee Witteman, executive director, and Ferd Hoefner, policy director, of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) on current Congressional food safety bills (HR.2749 and S.510), and from Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch (FWW), on the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (NLGMA) hearings.

Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) presents a working alternative to the food safety system being debated by the federal government.

Recorded Webinar

 

Presentation Slides

 

In-Webinar Written Q&A Transcript

Key: Q= Question; C=Attendee comment; RL=Russell Libby; SW=Steve Warshawer; AW=Aimee Witteman; NSAC=Aimee Witteman or Ferd Hoefner from NSAC; A=Patty Lovera, or editor (indicated), or editor doesn't know which panelist answered this question


Q: Your summary of HR 2749 fails to state that it requires new "food safety plans" and "food defense plans" for ALL food facilities regardless of size.  This is unfeasible for small processors and distributors.  Thus, the local food movement will be relegated to direct sales only and NO value added products as simple as making salad mixes.
SW: We may have missed that but our read is that this requirement applies to registered food facilities, and that registration requirement is limited to food facilities that sell 50.1% or more of their product wholesale.  If you have a reference that we can check, send it over!
NSAC: NSAC also disagrees with having a 'food defense plan' required of farms.  

Q: Your summary of HR 2749 fails to state that it requires new "food safety plans" and "food defense plans" for ALL food facilities regardless of size.  This is unfeasible for small processors and distributors.  Thus, the local food movement will be relegated to direct sales only and NO value added products as simple as making salad mixes.
RL: I actually think the 'food safety plan' is an issue that we can solve.  The "food defense plan" is just bad legislation--and it's currently embedded in the rules that go with the Food Bioterrorism Act of 2002--HR 2749 extends and makes it worse.

C: The only complete way to understand the implications of HR 2749 is to take specific examples and ask how it applies in this case.  Ferd just gave a great example of how this shows the real impact. [see webinar recording – Ed.]  A farmer who makes maple syrup and yogurt is subject to two of the $500 fees.

C: A multi-farm CSA that combines produce from several farms and "holds" it is already a facility.  In fact, distributors make up a substantial number of the existing facilities registered.

Q: The only complete way to understand the implications of HR 2749 is to take specific examples and ask how it applies in this case.  Ferd just gave a great example of how this shows the real impact.  A farmer who makes maple syrup and yogurt is subject to two of the $500 fees.
RL: Only one facility fee per business.  Depends on how business is structured.

Q: The definition of facilities excludes ONLY "farms" that meet the very limited definition.  If a farmer makes a salad mix for direct sale at a farmers market, it is a facility not a farm.  Ferd has just hit the point!
RL: This has been our continued point of contention throughout the process.  No agreements yet.

C: Regulations have the full force of law.  They are a separate category of law.

Q: HR 2749 applies to ALL farms that do activities which it defines as facilities
SW: The definition of food facility excludes farms.  We have been most concerned about farms they are also processors.  See FAQ for details [ http://ngfn.org/foodsafety -- Ed.]


Q: The current way that HACCP styled plans are being applied by the USDA requires separate plans for each separate products.  For example, I've  found on the web examples of pieces of a facility's plan for making frozen pizza.  This is an absolute disaster for small ag because it does lots of different things and would need plans for each.  Look at the FDA's recent "guidance" documents.  There was a different "guidance" for leafy greens, melons and tomatoes.  This means an essentially separate plan for each of these.
SW: I agree that a commodity-by-commodity approach would be disastrous for small producers.  So far the regulations seem not to address this problem

Q: How do you solve it?  As pushed by the experts they are way past over the top..  Furthermore, a plan is required for each product.  That means by type of food AND type of processing.
RL: Our focus is on trying to have simple standard responses that can be plugged in to a plan.  Not sure if your question has to do with food safety plan or food defense plan?

Q: HR 2749 applies to ALL farms that do activities which it defines as facilities
RL: Parts of HR 2749 apply to facilities; other parts (e.g., produce standards) apply to all farms that grow fruits or vegetables.  About 160 complex pages.  BUT, FDA already has jurisdiction over many of these activities, based on historical precedent.  Spelled out more completely in HR 2749 than anywhere else before.

Q: would they ever consider to include sprouts in this due to its risk level even thought they are not greens
RL: Already separate, rigorous FDA standards for sprouts--I don't think USDA wants to tackle the jurisdictional issues, so unlikely sprouts will be included in LGMA.
A: sprout production is regulated by FDA now!

Q: Will these questions and answers remain posted somewhere online?
A: Yes. http://ngfn.org/webinars

Q: Why is LGMA limited to leafy greens and not other vegies?
SW: Marketing agreements are initiated by request of industry and this agreement was requested by the leafy greens industry
RL: It's focused on greens since it was created by, primarily, larger California growers that ship greens across the country.  Builds on their response to the spinach outbreak from three years ago.

Q: How does this impact CSA's?
A: [answered verbally in webinar. Please see recording –Ed.]

Q: We distribute to restaurants from our local farmers market.  If I understand your answer re the CSA, then our farmers market becomes a food facility.
AW: Restaurants are treated as direct sales, so even if you are comingling product from farmers markets -- if over half your sales are to restaurants, you are exempt from the food facility requirements.
RL: Hi Elizabeth,  I don't think the farmers' market is a facility--it's a place where multiple retail food stores (i.e., farmers selling their products) are all present.  Restaurants are another matter.

Q: On HR 2749 Not sure what "one up, one down" means.
A: [This refers to a traceability method where each handler of food would be required to record the source (“one up”) and the destination (“one down”) of all of the food that goes through their facility. This was also answered verbally in webinar. Please see recording –Ed.]

Q: I believe that the National School Lunch Program requirement was for USDA Commodity Products - not everything bought for the school market.
RL: Yes, but then it funneled back down to the farm--farms that supply processors have had to become GAP-certified.

Q: Guidances can only be rules if legislation allows  it? Correct?
A: FDA could do more than guidance (rules) now.
RL: They are treated as rules even though they are 'guidances'--just don't have to go through the same public process.

Q: I represent a cooperative of around 20 producers.  We keep our product packaged separately and can trace it back with a label and pack date to the farm - We sell to restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and colleges - would we be considered a facility?
AW: One of the amendments that we're working on is to get products whose identity is preserved through supply chain exempt from the food facility requirements.

Q: I am seeing reference by speakers to "other sections" of the HR 2749 apply to produce - fresh fruits and vegetables. Can you give us a resource and/or answer "in a nutshell" what are those proposed regulations?  Thanks.
A: The bill instructs FDA to develop standards for produce - they are not spelled out in the bill.  It also instructs FDA to develop a traceability program after having public meetings and doing a feasibility study.  So much of this will be developed later by FDA after a bill becomes law.

Q: How do we address comments from large commodity groups that what is fair is a level playing field, where all farms are subject to the same standards?
RL: FDA has stated publicly that we need scale-appropriate solutions.  That's why MOFGA thinks we should be trying to get farmers to attend basic training sessions

Q: Have the coalitions looking at the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement talked with any of the national conservation organizations to bring them into the debate?
A: We have talked to some of the groups, and the Wild Farm Alliance has been working on this issue for a long time in California.  They did a good job at the California hearing explaining the problems experienced in California.  The California EPA also testified in California and offered suggestions about the issue.

Q: Does the annual fee of $500 apply to all farms selling more than 50% to wholesale?  We have many small farmers who sell primarily wholesale through our cooperative marketing network.  And does the 50% include all farm products sold, or just produce?  Anthony F
SW: The $500 fee is for food facilities selling 50.1% of their product by wholesale.  It does NOT include produce

Q: Does the annual fee of $500 apply to all farms selling more than 50% to wholesale?  We have many small farmers who sell primarily wholesale through our cooperative marketing network.  And does the 50% include all farm products sold, or just produce?  Anthony F
RL: Hi Anthony, So far this extends to processed products, not to produce.  It all hinges on a technical definition of a 'facility', which has a lot to do with how processing is defined.  If you're a facility, and wholesale more than 50%, then the fee would apply.

Q: Does the annual fee of $500 apply to all farms selling more than 50% to wholesale?  We have many small farmers who sell primarily wholesale through our cooperative marketing network.  And does the 50% include all farm products sold, or just produce?  Anthony F
A: The annual fee (in the House bill) applies to all farms selling more than 50% wholesale who do on-farm processing.  The 50% is for all processed product. 

Q: Do these requirements apply only to farmers, or do they also apply to or change those requirements that currently apply to food processors/canneries at the local level?
RL: Very much would apply to processors ("Facilities", in FDA jargon), whether they are on-farm, independent, etc.
A: These requirements regarding 'food facilities', including the $500 fee is for small processors as well -- anyone that holds or packs food sourced from multiple farms or that process food and sell less than 50% of the farm's products directly to consumers.

Q: Do these requirements apply only to farmers, or do they also apply to or change those requirements that currently apply  to food processors/canneries at the local level?
SW: The 2749 requirements relate only to food facilities, not to farms

Q: And can you please define "very small" processors?
RL: No such definition in HR 2749, but Senate bill is structured differently.

Q: Do these requirements apply only to farmers, or do they also apply to or change those requirements that currently apply  to food processors/canneries at the local level?
NSAC: The requirement is for any farm or food processor that is a 'food facility' -- this does include farms - any co-mingling or processing when the more than half of the final product is sold into wholesale.

Q: Did you know Cornell University has a huge website about GAP/GHP and many resources?
SW: Yes, some of us have used the site and we have included a link to it in the FAQ document [http://ngfn.org/foodsafety – Ed.]
RL: Yes, it's a great resource.  It was the precursor of the USDA GAP's program, and is particularly helpful once a farm/business needs to find some standardized forms to use for monitoring basic practices on the farm.

Q: Are baked goods covered by either legislation?
RL: Yes--baked goods are a pure processed product, so the only way to not be a facility is to be exempt as a retail food business.

Q: Is there any indication of what congress considers a 'facility', or 'processing'?
RL: The definition is currently included in an 'interim final rule' for the Food Bioterrorism Act of 2002.  "Farming" is exempt, but many of the things that farmers do to turn their products into something salable would make them processors.   Then the 50% rule applies.
A: [see FAQ for details http://ngfn.org/foodsafety -- Ed.]

Q: Can someone clarify what the 50% applies to in HR 2749? Is is 50% of gross sales ($) of all farm sales, or all 'processed' farm goods?  Who is expected to measure such a %?
RL: See answer to Anthony, above.  The measurement issues are one of the reasons many of us have been pushing for a different approach to how to define a facility.
NSAC: Besides being inequitable, NSAC opposed this because it seems completely unworkable to us.  This kind of data is not collected by FDA or USDA right now.
SW: 2749 relates only to sale of processed foods, from registered food facilities, registered with FDA.  we assume that processors will be reporting their sales to FDA in some type of "sworn statement"

Q: Is there any indication of what congress considers a 'facility', or 'processing'?
SW: Check the FAQ for a definition of "food facility" [http://ngfn.org/foodsafety – Ed.]

Q: Is there any chance that they would consider a sliding scale fee structure, or is that entirely off the table?
A: [This is answered verbally in webinar. Please see recording –Ed.]

Document Actions