Victory! Leahy’s Draconian Food Safety Bill Language Defeated For Now!

We’re thrilled to announce that today that, thanks to your calls and letters, the Senate Food Safety bill (S. 510) will not include those obscene ten-year jail sentences for food and supplement manufacturers who violate complicated FDA rules. Senate offices were deluged with your messages, and the Senate leadership listened to you!

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is the manager of S. 510. He has pulled together what is called a Manager’s Amendment, which will replace S. 510; that package does not include the language from Sen. Leahy’s bill. There was a unanimous consent agreement in the Senate on Wednesday as to what amendments will or will not be raised when the bill is debated on Monday, November 29. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says they have agreed to “up to five” amendments, mostly procedural, and ANH-USA has been assured by Sen. Harkin’s office that Sen. Leahy’s bill is not among them. Neither the bill nor its language can be considered without another unanimous consent vote by the entire Senate, so that issue is now dead.

ANH-USA has further learned that Sen. Hatch worked with Sen. Leahy to remove a section from the Leahy bill that specifically targeted supplements and made a lapse in filing to the FDA subject to the full ten-year jail term (see the reference to subsection V of Section 301 of the Federal Food and Drug Act). This is important, because this was the worst part of the bill, and Sen. Leahy could attempt to pass his bill again, either during the Lame Duck session or in the next Congress. We are grateful to Sen. Hatch and Sen. Leahy for working together to remove this provision.

This is the second S. 510 victory for ANH-USA members and allies. You may remember that last year we were able to make sure the bill did not require the development of a plan to harmonize with the Codex Alimentarius, which would have reduced access to higher, therapeutic doses of nutrients in dietary supplements.

We’re pleased that now no one will be putting small food and supplement producers (even mom-and-pop operations) in jail for ten years simply for running afoul of mindlessly complex FDA rules. This is an exciting day for natural health and health freedom.

Some background, for readers who haven’t been following the bill’s progress as closely:

The House version of the Food Safety bill passed some time ago. That bill includes draconian ten-year jail terms for even minor paperwork violations. Long jail terms were explicitly rejected by the Senate committee that put together the Senate’s version of the bill. But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced his own bill, the Food Safety Accountability Act (S. 3767). This bill adds back the ten-year jail terms for adulterating or misbranding food.

Bear in mind, the FDA defines those terms in its own way. In the FDA’s view, “adulteration” includes recordkeeping violations, while “misbranding” includes citing peer-reviewed science about the benefits of a dietary supplement. This new threat of sanctions would have given the FDA a hammer with which to threaten and coerce companies engaging in completely legal activities.

Sen. Leahy subsequently amended his bill to reserve the jail terms for someone who “consciously or recklessly disregard[s] a risk of death or serious bodily injury.” But of course, what is conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional, is to be decided by FDA prosecutors. No actual harm is necessary! And the additional language targeting supplements was added, although now removed.

The good news is that with the help of people like you, who were willing to speak out on what they considered an unjust threat, we were able to keep the Leahy language out of S. 510. Thank you—this victory belongs to you!

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