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Learn More About The Food Safety Modernization Act Tonight

By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 30, 2013 6:20PM

Photo by Eric Rogers.

Do you care about local food, small farmers, food safety or organic agriculture? The Food Safety Modernization Act might affect all of those things, and some Chicagoans are pretty concerned about it. That's why they are hosting a gathering tonight at Sauce and Bread kitchen to discuss the act and gather comments from the community.

The FSMA passed last year, and directed the FDA to write regulations to modernize food safety laws (hence the name) for the first time in decades. It gives the FDA some pretty broad powers, and they've created some proposed rules that the public can comment on until Nov. 15.

Local agriculture advocates are worried that the rules, which impose some one-size-fits-all safety requirements, might burden smaller farms and producers. If a rule is designed to fit a huge farm or factory, someone working in their home kitchen might not be able to abide by it. Luckily, Congress provided for this in the law by allowing the FDA to write regs that accommodate small farmers; they just haven't done it yet.

Two locals, Lily Baker and Katie Blanchard, want to make sure the FDA hears about the concerns of small farmers. "I've worked on farms since high school, and want to own one myself," explained Blanchard. "On every small farm where I've worked (and when I imagine my own), what makes it successful is diversity - being able to grow all sorts of produce, raise animals, and make "value-added" foods like pickles or cheese. The proposed FSMA rules potentially make it complicated and costly to even survive as a diversified farm business -- let alone develop the innovative, sustainable agriculture and business practices that are helping new small farms get started, grow, and negotiate all the many challenges of farming."

Baker adds: "I've worked on a bunch of small farms all over the country, and I know for a fact that some of their methods, things that were perfectly safe and effective, could become really costly or completely impossible. I want my friends who are farmers to be able to keep running their businesses without being squeezed and having to give up some of their sustainable practices."

Tonight from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., head over to Sauce and Bread to ask questions, write letters and learn more. Get involved with your food system!

Sauce and Bread Kitchen is at 6338 N. Clark Street.