Food, safety, modernization—all good words. But the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) President Obama signed into law in 2011—giving the Food and Drug Administration new authority to regulate how food is grown, harvested and processed (i.e. produced)—places costly burdens on the small farmers who can least afford them.
What is the FSMA?
Prior to the law, the FDA’s approach to food contamination was reactionary. When instances of foodborne illnesses were reported, they responded, often with voluntary recalls. The new regulations, finalized last year and currently being implemented in phases, mark a distinct shift in an agency strategy that seeks to prevent contaminants from entering the food supply in the first place.
Food poisoning is a problem nationally. According to the CDC, of the 48 million Americans who get sick from eating tainted food every year, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Furthermore, massive recalls and settling the inevitable legal fallout costs the food industry billions. In addition to authorizing the FDA to issue mandatory recalls, the FSMA has incrementally unveiled 1,286 pages of new safety regulations.
While the food industry’s largest producers can afford to accommodate the various certifications, infrastructure changes and inspections that the law now mandates, small farmers already struggling to compete in their local markets risk getting priced—and regulated—out of business. Counter-intuitively, this is happening as consumer interest in food that hasn’t been doused in pesticides, wrapped in plastic and shipped halfway around the world should be offering regional farmers expanding economic opportunity in the form of community supported agriculture (CSAs) and weekend markets. To read more, click HERE.