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Web Letter

Mr. Nichols informs us that "we've learned so far this year... Peanut butter can kill you. And spinach. And maybe cookie dough."

He might have learned that, but I certainly did not, because neither spinach nor peanut butter nor cookie dough hurt anyone. Rather, dangerous pathogens on or in the foods listed did. And all of those foods were introduced into American homes by industrial agriculture. Furthermore, at least in the cases of the cookie dough and the peanut butter, the companies almost certainly had the supposedly wondrous Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems in place that are supposed to eliminate this type of contamination. And the near-universal requirement of HACCP systems are at the heart of the "new" regulation Nichols is supporting.

In other words, this "relatively good bill" that "bodes well for the possibility that the Senate will back bold reform" almost certainly would not have made any difference in any of the cases Nichols cited.

The Senate is supposedly famed for its careful deliberation. I and hundreds of thousands of the men, women and children hope so, because we are already bringing healthy food (not misnamed "safe" food) to our communities by growing, processing, distributing and selling local food to local people.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that Seattle trial lawyer Bill Marler, whose clients are the victims of foodborne illnesses, said

the industry rules won't stop lawsuits or eliminate the risk of processed greens cut in fields, mingled in large baths, put in bags that must be chilled from packing plant to kitchen, and shipped thousands of miles away.

"In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I've never had a case where it's been linked to a farmers' market," Marler said."

"Could it happen? Absolutely. But the big problem has been the mass-produced product. What you're seeing is this rub between trying to make it as clean as possible so they don't poison anybody, but still not wanting to come to the reality that it may be the industrialized process that's making it all so risky.

Both HR 2749 and S 510 will cut the local food movement off at the knees. And it may do the same to the true organic movement.

Both of our movements are currently being strangled by the lack of availability of efficient processing and distribution. HR 2749 and S 510 will make it almost impossible to meet the foolish byproduct HACCP requirements that the FDA and USDA already have and will continue creating.

Also, farmers who grow the wide array of crops necessary for truly sustainable agriculture will have to meet those requirements to be able to wholesale into the existing food distribution systems.

For over fourteen years my wife, Elaine, and I have averaged working over sixty hours a week trying to bring healthy food to our neighbors. We have invested most of our wealth plus all of those hours, and haven't come close to making the minimum wage. And now, ignorant, foolish know-it-alls are about to fulfill one of industrial agriculture's greatest dreams--the elimination of the growing threat of the local food movement to its hegemony.

Besides ill-considered regulation, the primary threats to safer food are:

1. Industrial agriculture;
2. The failure to of the USDA and FDA to properly use their existing powers (see John Munsell and Montana Quality Foods); and
3. The unwillingness of Congress and the American people to properly fund and staff the FDA, USDA and other food regulators.

I will be happy to help anyone understand this more fully at any time on my nickel. Just call me at 828-669-4003 and--despite the fact that talking to you will cost me money because it is harvest time and fall planting time--I will happily talk to you.

Harry Hamil

Black Mountain, NC

Sep 4 2009 - 8:55am