Sunday, September 25, 2011

Benefit for District 18 Democratic Caucus // Event Theme: The Food Safety Act

The District 18 Democratic Caucus is hosting a fundraising event today from 4 pm to 6 pm, and the theme is the landmark Food Safety Act that President Obama signed into law in January. Details on the event are below, but Maryland Juice wants to stoke curiosity with some brief background information. Obama Foodorama, a blog dedicated to White House food-related initiatives, had this overview:
America's food safety system joins the 21st century a decade late, with broad new regulatory powers for FDA...
It empowers FDA for the first time to make mandatory recalls of tainted foods, and gives the Agency a congressional mandate for risk-based inspection of food processing facilities. It also significantly enhances FDA’s ability to oversee the millions of food products that come into the United States each year from foreign countries.
The D18 Caucus is a political club that supports the Democratic Party in their area, but with that mission, I thought this was an unusual event theme. That's because while the divisive political battles of our time occupy our public discourse, food policy is undergoing a far less noticed, but still fairly controversial transformation.

The Food Safety Act, to be sure, passed with overwhelming margins in both chambers. In the Senate, the vote was 73-25-2, and while not all the "Yes" votes came from Democrats, all of the "No" votes came from Republicans. The House acted similarly, voting 215-144-74 on an almost strictly party-line vote (that is a large amount of members not voting!). Among those voting, all but eight Democrats supported the bill, and all but ten Republicans opposed it.

Nevertheless, prior to passage, the Christian Science Monitor flagged concerns from the left and right:
According to critics, it will create higher compliance costs for smaller producers, putting them at a competitive disadvantage against corporate farmers and producers who can more easily absorb costs, fees, and possible fines.

That's not the only type of expense. The legislation would cost the US government a total of $1.4 billion over four years, says Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma. One result could be higher food costs, some worry.
After Senate passage, Fox News personality Michelle Malkin spoke out against Republicans who voted for the bill, mirroring the Tea Party's anti-regulatory message:
I mentioned last week that a new Big Foodie bill opposed by a diverse coalition of limited government activists, small family farmers, and left-leaning “locovores” was coming down the pike. 
Today, I’m disappointed to tell you, the regulatory expansion bill masquerading as a “safety” measure passed by a large margin — with stomach-turning Republican support.
Does this mean the far right does not even believe that the risk of fecal matter on our spinach or tainted baby formula is worth additional government regulations?

If you want to hear more about the almost two-year process of getting the bill passed, join Sen. Madaleno and Delegates Carr, Guteirrez and Waldstreicher in attending today's District 18 Democratic Caucus event:
We Are What We Eat? Ensuring a Safer Food Supply

Come hear Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, recount the passage of the 2010 Food Safety Act and her inside perspective on the monumental Congressional battle to improve food safety (and the continuing battle to ensure adequate funding for enforcement). Join us for a stimulating and informative discussion of a legislative sausage-making process that will lead to literally safer sausage (and spinach and peanut butter).

When: Sunday, September 25, 2011, 4-6 p.m.
Where: The Bracken's Home (5 Magnolia Pkwy, Chevy Chase)
Tickets: $25 per person

Please RSVP:; (301) 588-9241
Sponsored by the District 18 Democratic Caucus; By authority: Richard Mandel, Chair.

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