As someone who knows the difference between organic food and mainstream fare, you need to get involved in another issue that affects the safety of our food supply: the National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005, which I covered last week.
Grocers and food manufacturers are thrilled that their lobbyists have succeeded in convincing the House of Representatives to pass this bill, which now heads to the Senate for approval. The bill takes the teeth out of legislation that allows states to place warnings about lead, mercury, arsenic, pesticides and other hazards on food labels.
“This legislation is a win-win for consumers and the entire grocery industry,” says Thomas K. Zaucha, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association. “This bill will give the public a single set of consistent food safety regulations based on sound FDA science and will enhance the efficiencies in America’s food distribution system that allow the grocery industry to provide consumers with some of the safest and most affordable food in the world.”
In a word, no.
The Organic Consumers Association is concerned that lawmakers are selling out consumer health for campaign contributions. In the 2006 election cycle, big agribusiness has already given more than $14 million in campaign contributions to members of Congress.
“Despite the food industry’s rhetoric, this bill is a sweeping rollback of decades of state action to protect consumers,” says Susanna Montezemolo, a policy analyst for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “It would reduce food safety protections to the lowest common denominator and make states jump through expensive bureaucratic hoops to enact future food safety protections.”
Chris Waldrop, deputy director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, agrees.
“This bill guts existing laws designed to protect consumers and would enact the most sweeping overhaul of food safety laws in decades,” he says. “State action on food safety has led to consumer protections not covered by federal laws, such as the elimination of arsenic in drinking water.”
The bill faces mounting opposition from 39 state attorneys general, the Association of Food and Drug Officials, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and numerous consumer and environmental groups.
“We are confident that opposition will only grow as this bill moves to the Senate,” Montezemolo says. “As more Americans learn about the impact of this radical bill, they will demand more—not fewer—protections, and urge the Senate to undo the damage the House did.”
You can also sign the Organic Consumers Association petition by clicking here.