Someone once said that the FDA is the uninvited guest at our dinner table. If Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has her way they will be there for breakfast, lunch, dinner and every in-between snack.  The impact on sustainable farming and the Eat Local movement will be substantial.

On February 4Th, 2009 Representative DeLauro, whose husband counts Monsanto as a client, introduced bill HR875 into the House and it seems to be a popular bill among Democrats. While the proposed legislation tries to address the many problems of the industrial food system, the impact on small farms if the bill becomes law would be substantial and definitely not for the better. HR 875, the Food Safety and Modernization Administration (FSA) is a major threat to sustainable farming and the Eat Local food movement.

Under HR 875 the FSA, the new Federal Safety Administration, is charged to regulate food safety and labeling [Section 2(1)(A)] and to “lead an integrated, system-wide approach to food safety and to make more effective and efficient use of resources to prevent food borne illness.”

What is scary to me in the above quote is how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) manipulates the figures of food borne illness to instill fear in the public. At a recent conference we were shown a slide stating the statistics for food borne illnesses in 2009. They were staggering to say the least. However, the next slide showed how the CDC comes up with these numbers, and here is the disconcerting part of this strange equation. The slide showed a pyramid cut into seven horizontal sections. The smallest section, the very corner of the pyramid, was the actual cases of food borne illness with the other six sections labeled to show how and why they increased the number. Valid guesses included those who did not seek care, people who just got sick and did not know that they were infected and the exposure of the general public. When I asked the instructor about this seemingly crazy guessing game and its role in spreading fear in the general public he responded “it’s the best system we have and I think they do a very good job”.

So, if the CDC is making up numbers or even if their computers are making up numbers to make us fear our food we had better be ready for a good fight where this bill is concerned. You can be sure that these CDC figures will be thrown around with abandon and no one will have a chart showing the elaborate guessing game that produced those numbers.  As consumers who care about sustainable farming and the Eat Local movement, we have to stay active to protect our access to whole foods.

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