The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Food Safety Task Force released a paper, “A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on Food Safety,” in anticipation of the upcoming debate and vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) when Congress returns. The paper looks ahead to more food safety rules and activities at USDA and FDA in the next few years that will have significant impact on farmers.
The paper offers 16 guiding principles for achieving sustainable, safe, and healthy food systems, which emphasize that while risk can never be entirely eliminated, minimizing risk begins on the farm and must continue through every step until it reaches the fork.
“All farms, farmers, and farm staff, from the owners to the most transient farm helpers, have a role in producing safe food,” the authors assert, but “public health requires awareness and effort from each of us, even in our own kitchens.”
Several of the task force’s tenets address the food safety regulations proposed in S.510. The authors challenge the relevance of HACCP management system used in food processing facilities for small farms, where there are few uniform ‘control points,’ rebut consumer groups’ claims that certain raw foods are inherently risky, and underscore the harm that inappropriate, overreaching regulations may impose on family farmers.
One of the tenets speaks to the need for the acceptance and application of sound, proven sustainable farming and conservation systems rather than single-minded pursuit of traditional “search and destroy” approaches to farming.
“We commit to proactively working with farmers and all players in local and regional food systems to reduce the risk not only of pathogenic outbreaks, but of other risks to the environment and our health, while upholding the quality, freshness and transparency that consumers deserve,” the authors conclude.