CA Sen. Florez Takes on Abusive Agri-business Practices: Update

Update Oct. 13 on bills introduced by California state Sen. Dean Florez:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law S.B. 135, a ban on tail docking in cattle, and vetoed S.B. 173, a bill that would have required those food producers that test for pathogens, poisonous chemicals or other harmful substances, to maintian accurate records and report the existence of any such substances.  The bill would have mandated a food recall for any product that could kill or seriously affect human health.

S.B. 416 did not pass the state Senate. This bill would have prohibited a school, beginning January 1, 2012, from serving poultry and meat products from animals given non-therapeutic antibiotics. Under this bill, beginning January 1, 2015, it would have been a crime for anyone to provide non-therapeutic antibiotics to any animal raised for human food. 

Original report: California state Senator Dean Florez is putting a new face on the senate Agriculture Committee.
  
He has championed 3 pro-animal welfare bills through the Committee already.
  
In addition to a ban on tail docking in cattle, Sen. Florez’ bill, S.B. 416, has also passed the Senate Agriculture Committee.
  
S.B. 416 would prohibit a school, beginning January 1, 2012, from serving poultry and meat products from animals given non-therapeutic antibiotics. Under this bill, beginning January 1, 2015, it would be a crime for anyone to provide non-therapeutic antibiotics to any animal raised for human food.  Go here for more on use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in farm animals.
  
A third bill from Sen. Florez, S.B. 173, has also passed the Agriculture Committee. That bill would require those food producers that test for pathogens, poisonous chemicals or other harmful substances, to maintian accurate records and report the existence of any such substances.  The bill would mandate a food recall for any product that could kill or seriously affect human health.
  
Food producers and others that cause the need for a food recall would be subject to onsite inspections at their cost and a suspension of operations for up to 6 months to prevent additional outbreaks. These food producers could also be liable for treble damages.
  
There would be exemptions for those producers that subject their food products to testing and maintain a written Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Plan that follows the principles developed by the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.
  
Current law does not provide the California Department of Public Health with the authority to issue mandatory food recalls. There is also no federal authority to issue these mandates though the Food and Drug Administration has requested it.   
          
Current law does not require companies that have a positive test result for food-borne illness to report that to DPH, and this information would be helpful in helping DPH decide what firms may need to be  inspected.  SB 173 also 
gives firms incentive to act responsibly by implementing appropriate food safety programs and testing programs. 
  
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cattle are generally the principal source of E. coli O157:H7 infections.  The E. coli in their intestines can contaminate other parts during slaughter.  Cattle manure 
containing E. coli O157:H7 can contaminate streams that flow through produce fields and are used for irrigation, pesticide application, or washing.  The CDC indicates that contamination of fresh produce may result from exposure to 
poor water quality, manure used for fertilizer, workers with poor hygiene, and animals, both domesticated and wild. 

Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that each year 76 million Americans get sick, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die from food-borne illnesses.  Since 1995, there have been more than 20 documented instances of contaminated leafy green produce originating on farms in California.  On September 14, 2006, federal and state public health officials issued a nationwide health alert, warning consumers that E. coli O157:H7 was detected in packages of fresh uncooked spinach.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 is a leading cause of food-borne illness, causing bloody diarrhea, and, occasionally, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a cause of acute kidney failure, in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and children under five years of age. For more on this…  

This bill will give California authorities the ability to move quickly to issue mandatory recalls and also perform inspections to protect the food supply. With this authority, they are more likely to uncover animal cruelty and other abuses at slaughterhouses, feedlots, factory farms and other producers using animals for human food.   
  
WHAT YOU CAN DO
  
Support Sen. Florez’ efforts to promote animal welfare in agri-business. Find your California legislators here and urge them to vote yes on S.B. 416 to stop the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in food animals and yes on S.B. 173 to give authorities the tools to stop animal cruelty and other abuses that could jeopardize the food supply.