The Center for Food Safety has filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over its alleged failure to enforce the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). 

You may remember the FSMA–it’s the contentious law enacted in early 2011 that gives the FDA broad new powers to enter farms and other food producers without warrants, to force food producers to have detailed food safety plans (or show they meet strict requirements for an exemption), and to inspect farms to assess their farming practices (enforce so-called “good agricultural practices”), even gives the FDA potential authority over intrastate food sales. 

The CFS is one of those sanctimonious Washington nonprofits that seems to be saying the right things–get rid of Agent Orange in soy, save the bees, no genetically engineered apples–but toes the party line on using food safety as an excuse to crack down on small farms.    

Yes, technically the CFS is correct. The FSMA is the law of the land. 

Yet the notion of a court suit, hiring expensive lawyers to force the FDA to lower the boom on small farms and food producers, just leaves me cold, or maybe I should say it leaves me in a cold sweat. The FDA pushed for the FSMA–which bureaucrats worth their stripes wouldn’t want all the new power, and funding, that comes with it? I don’t know why the FDA is taking its time establishing all the new rules and forms and so forth that go with implementing the new law, except that part of it seems to have to do with Congress’ reluctance to fund the law. 

The rationale behind the CFS suit? Those CDC estimates about 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths from tainted food…even though the CDC’s own most recent data can locate only 22 deaths. 

The CFS suggests that recent illnesses and deaths from tainted cantaloupe could have been avoided had the FSMA been fully implemented. It offers no evidence of how that would have happened, though.

My question for CFS: How many additional farmers would have been forced off the farm over the last 18 months had the FDA had all the additional power? 

For a partial answer, consider another time would-be do-gooders tried to force the FDA to take a tougher line. In 1986, a Ralph Nader organization, Public Citizen, filed suit in federal court to force the FDA to ban the sale of raw milk across state lines.

The result has been a federal and state crackdown on dairies supplying raw milk, even on a private basis, and an untold number of dairies put out of business or financially crippled. 

In its holier-than-thou arrogance, CFS is, in effect, pushing the FDA to work faster and harder to stamp out smaller food producers, the ones producing the last of our nutrient-dense food. 


Angela Doss at The Girls Gone Raw has a sad retrospective on the Rawesome Food Club situation. 

She bemoans the lack of member support for the Rawesome Three defendants–James Stewart, Sharon Palmer, and Victoria Bloch–whose legal travails began just a little over a year ago.  

I agree about how sad it is.  But it is also an important reminder about the traps associated with letting ego and internal disputes distract food rights leaders from the task at hand, and how eager government enforcers will exploit the divisions.