by Marion Nestle
Aug 21 2010

Why the U.S. needs a better food safety system

Yes, the Senate needs to pass S.510 but that is only the first step.  As the inimitable Carol Tucker Foreman puts it in today’s New York Times story on the latest egg recalls:

You have to treat eggs with the assumption that they’re contaminated with salmonella…We may all object to the fact that we have to treat food like toxic waste, but if we don’t want to get sick, and especially if you have someone in your house that’s immune-suppressed, you have to handle things carefully and demand that the standards be set higher.

If you are still unconvinced, take a look at the recalls announced by the FDA just since August 13 (I’ve deleted the ones that do not involve microbial contaminants):

The FDA has a lot to say about Salmonella risk, but it’s useful to note that all these recalls are voluntary. Hence the need for S.510.

S.510 won’t solve the problem but it is a necessary first step in getting to a food safety system that does a better job of protecting the public against this sort of thing.

  • I have heard that S.510 will preclude the right of individuals and small farmers to grow produce and keep animals. Is this paranoia or is there truth to it? This link, for example, makes it seem as though the bill will move us straight into “1984” with regard to food:

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  • Melissa: Unfortunately, there is plenty of misinformation out there regarding S. 510. Not only does S. 510 exempt small farms, it specifically dictates that provisions be made to protect small facilities.

    The legislation targets those operations that pose the greater risk and makes a concerted effort to detail explicitly the provisions afforded to entities of various sizes.

    Here is the actual text of the bill:

  • Thanks much for that Michael – though I don’t know that I’ll be getting through all 225 pages, I’ll try to find the highlights. 😉

    Bills regarding the regulation of food are always exceedingly complex, do it isn’t surprising that there is a lot of confusion surrounding this one.

  • My pleasure. If you’d like, I can help you by directing you to relevant sections.

    To quickly put fears to rest, this is a document being passed around by Senate staff:

    To confirm what the document says, you can use the link to the bill I posted above.

  • @Melissa Bastian, unfortunately, there is incorrect information coming out on both sides of S 510. The Info Wars piece is misleading. Those of us working to protect small growers, packers, processors and distributors from the industrial-size-only, we-should-all-just-trust-the-FDA approach of S 510 work hard correcting those mistakes on our side of the issue, too.
    Supporters of S 510, like Michael Bulger, are knowingly spreading dis-information in support of S 510.

    As I published on on 8-20-10:

    “At 12:45 PM on 8-4-10 on Marion Nestle’s blog, ‘We need S 510 to pass, despite tea bagging,’ Michael Bulger commented, ‘I have not read S. 510 but hope that reasonable efforts are being made to improve a system that is antiquated.’ ( Since then he claims to have read and understood it (148 pages) and the manager’ package version (225 pages) published on 8-12-10. After making numerous errors and being taken on by several different writers, he now acts as if he is an authority on S 510.

    “For anyone willing to read through the 20+ pages of those comments and then his additional blogging and comments on his own blog, ‘Smart Culture Kitchen,’ (where he blocked my comments), it will be clear that not only is he far from an expert, he is making significant errors about what is in S 510 and is maligning one of the organizations (FARFA) that has fought the longest and hardest to aid small growers and ranchers on S 510 and in the 4 year fight against NAIS.

    “In short, I urge that you give what he wrote ZERO CREDANCE.”

    For a quite different QUICK analysis of S 510, I urge you to read that done by Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) at

    As the Managers’ package version increased S 510 from 148 – 225 pages, there is still a lot of analysis remaining to be done. I will try to post it on as quickly as I can.

  • Hamil accuses me of spreading misinformation. Mr. Hamil you underestimate my ability to read and comprehend. I assure you that I have read, and do understand, both versions of the bill.

    I invite anyone to read 20+ pages of comments, which for George seems like an insurmountable task. Unfortunately for Hamil, I am more than capable in the field of reading comprehension. By attacking my credibility, Henry/Harry is only providing me with the opportunity to reaffirm myself. Sir, I am not your average bear.

    You’ve stooped low, Mr. Hamil. I have blocked no comments on my blog. Your internet prowess leaves much to be desired, as we both learned when you could not figure out that my name is also a link to my blog. Try commenting again, but this time make sure you click the “Post Comment” tab.

    For anyone who’d like to donate money to Henry Hamil, you can do so at his website.

    In the meantime, those truly interested in S. 510 should read it themselves. Try doing so while ignoring the child-like behavior displayed from certain involved parties. I apologize for prolonging this discussion, but I felt obliged to defend my reputation.

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  • Melissa Riley

    We need to stop supporting food as an “industry” and get people educated on the alternatives.

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