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The Senate agreed last week that farmers making less than $500,000 a year in revenue and sell directly to consumers, restaurants and nearby stores would be exempt from a new food safety law now being considered. The exemption was pushed by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, who said he was trying to protect small growers and producers.
Tester’s amendment was promoted by the locavore and foodie communities (led by chief foodie Michael Pollan) It was opposed by some food safety advocates.
The debate raises an interesting questions — which were also addressed in a New York Times article about a small cheese maker in California. “They really need to go after the industrial producers,” said Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, who pushed for the exemption. “The level of risk is far less with the little guy than it is with the big guy.”
Everyone agrees that Kelli Estrella makes tremendous cheese. Her cheese is served by fancy restaurants in L.A. and New York. Yet last month, the Food and Drug Administration moved to shut down the Estrella cheese shop after finding listeria in some of her cheeses.
Sen. Tester’s argument is that big processors are the source of most food-bourne illnesses. “They really need to go after the industrial producers,” said Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana. “The level of risk is far less with the little guy than it is with the big guy.” Estrella cheese’s safety is vouched for by artisan cheesemakers.
But Kelli Estrella is a small producer and inspectors found listeria both in some of her soft cheeses and in the facility where all her cheeses are made.
The Times explores this conflict. Good story.