November 30, 2010

Manchin's First Vote on Passage is to Improve Food Safety and Protect West Virginia Families

Washington, D.C. – Senator Joe Manchin today voted for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that will protect American families from dangerous food contamination. This vote marks the Senator’s first vote on passage of a bill.
“Protecting our families without overburdening our small farms and food producers is a win-win for West Virginia,” Manchin said. “Our local growers can continue to sell their goods in our communities without being bogged down by additional red tape.”
In addition to requiring manufacturers and farms to adhere to new food safety standards, the legislation gives the FDA the ability to order a recall on contaminated goods. The bill also provides safeguards for individuals, small farmers and small food processing facilities by exempting them from the reporting and verification requirements in the legislation.
“Families deserve to know that the food they are consuming is safe, and this legislation is a step in the right direction to better protect our citizens.” Manchin said. “This legislation will institute quality controls and help ensure public safety, and I am proud to have this legislation as my first vote on passage.”
The legislation also levels the playing field between foreign imports and domestic food products by requiring food importers to verify compliance with U.S. food safety laws. The bill does not outlaw gardens and the legislation explicitly states that the produce standards "shall not apply to produce that is produced by an individual for personal consumption." There are also protections for small facilities and family farms. This includes food sold through such things as farmer's markets, bake sales, and public events. In addition, the bill creates no new rules with regards to the practice of saving seeds to use from year to year. It also imposes no rule on those who hunt and eat wild game. 
Additional information on recent high-profile food safety incidents:
Several incidents in recent years have stressed the need for improved food safety.  The following timeline provides some highlights of recent food safety incidents:
May 2010 to Present: Eggs
In late June and early July, the Centers for Disease Control noticed that salmonella illnesses increased four times during June and July 2010. The initial investigation conducted by the FDA found two farms in Iowa were the potential sources and in mid-August those farms issued recalls for about 550 million eggs.
February and March 2010: Food Flavoring
During the first few months of 2010, salmonella was detected in a product and one of the nation’s largest food flavoring manufacturers began a recall. A list of more than 175 products, ranging from soups, sauces and frozen foods were added to the recall list.
June 2009: Cookie Dough
In June 2009, the FDA and the CDC issued a warning regarding a certain company’s cookie dough because it was contaminated with E. coli. Later that month, the FDA confirmed the E. coli was found in a sample. According to the CDC, more than 70 people in 30 states fell ill because of E. coli contamination in cookie dough in 2009. It is stated that 10 individuals developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease that can cause chronic kidney disease.
March—April 2009: Pistachios
In March 2009, the FDA stated that various samples of pistachio nuts and other pistachio products were contaminated with salmonella. The FDA examined and found that the contamination came from one business in California. The investigation found that the company had detected salmonella in October 2008; however, the business did not alter its procedures until March 2009.  This outbreak caused the pistachio industry’s sales to decline about 20 percent.
November 2008—February 2009: Peanut Butter and Peanuts
In November 2008, the CDC and many state health departments began to monitor a growing salmonella outbreak.  Salmonella contamination was confirmed and in early 2009 one manufacturer recalled the product that was produced in one Georgia facility. The company eventually expanded its recall, but by this point, more than 500 individuals in more than 40 states, including eight deaths, were thought to be connected with this outbreak.
After a criminal investigation was open, the company filed chapter 7 bankruptcy and stated that the company could no longer communicate with customers.  In March 2009, it was estimated that this outbreak cost the peanut industry more than $1 billion. In addition, more than 3,900 products were impacted and more than 710 people fell ill and nine deaths were linked to this salmonella outbreak.