Alcatraz

Creative Commons License photo credit: Caitlinator

Your Farmer Behind Bars?

What S510 Could Do

By Stanley A. Fishman, Author of Tender Grassfed Meat

There are many reasons to oppose S510, the so-called “Food Safety” bill that will come up in the Senate after the election.

It will do nothing to improve actual food safety, relying almost totally on burdensome paperwork.
It will drive small farmers out of business, because they do not have the resources to comply with the crushing burden of meaningless paperwork that will be required.

The paperwork will have to be done to the satisfaction of regulatory agencies that are heavily influenced by the large agricultural companies, who will be able to use the government to destroy their smaller competition. This has happened before, when the adoption of paperwork-heavy HAACP standards led to the closing of most of the small meat processing plants in the nation. Of course, their business was taken by the giants, and most American meat is packed at huge plants owned by a handful of large companies. And there are more meat contamination outbreaks than ever before.

It will give the FDA the power to control every aspect of how crops are grown. The FDA favors genetically modified crops, pesticides, chemical disinfectants and preservatives, and radiating produce. The FDA would have the power to force these industrial methods on every farmer in America.

But perhaps the worst thing S510 would do is create criminal penalties that could result in 10 years in federal prison, and huge fines. People could go to prison for farming, and for selling food, or possibly even receiving food.

But surely the government of the United States of America, a country that prizes liberty, freedom, and justice, would not send people to prison for a technical violation that hurts no one?

Yes it would, and yes it has. Three people were sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison for importing frozen lobster tails that were wrapped in plastic, not cardboard.

Prison for Packaging

There is a federal law called the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act prohibits the importation of seafood in violation of foreign laws, and imposes criminal penalties for its violation.

A small group of businesspeople had been importing lobster tails from Honduras for ten years, without problems. Every shipment was passed by the FDA and Customs. In 1999 they were arrested and charged with violation of the Lacey Act. According to the government, they had violated Honduran law by packaging the frozen lobster tails in plastic, rather than cardboard. They were also accused of violating other provisions that turned out to pertain to turtles, not lobsters. These lobsters were not an endangered species.

The government sought heavy prison terms. This case was such an outrage that some of the finest lawyers and organizations in the nation came to the defense of these businesspeople, and gave them the best representation possible. The Attorney General of Honduras sent a letter to the court, stating that the resolution in question was void and had never been in effect. His letter was backed by a decision of the Honduran Supreme Court.

Since no Honduran law had been broken, since nobody could possibly be harmed by packing frozen lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard, surely our government would drop the case?

They did not.

gavel
Creative Commons License photo credit: bloomsberries

What about the trial judge, surely he would dismiss the case?

He did not.

Three defendants were sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison each, and fined heavily. Their business was destroyed. They were separated from their families. They lost their liberty.

They appealed their convictions. Surely the Court of Appeals would overturn this unjust conviction, and set them free?

They did not.

The three defendants appealed their conviction to the United States Supreme Court. Surely the highest court in our land, the court that is charged with enforcing the constitution, would overturn the Court of Appeals, and do justice?

They did not.

The Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case.

Prison for Selling Any Food the Government Considers “Adulterated”?

This “lobster tail” case has established that our Federal government will enforce a bad law. This case has also shown that the courts will not stop the government from doing so. A bad law is a threat to the freedom of everyone.

It is expected that S510 will include, as an amendment, Senate Bill 3767. The amended version of S3767 states in part that:

“Any person who knowingly violates subsection (a),(b), (c),(k), or (v) of section 301 with respect to any food and with conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both”.

The included subsections of section 301 prohibit the introduction of adulterated or misbranded food into interstate commerce, misbranding or adulterating food in interstate commerce, and receiving misbranded or adulterated substances into interstate commerce, among other things.

This means that anyone who sells, produces, or possibly even receives “adulterated” or “misbranded” food with “conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury” could go to jail for ten years.

“Adulterated” has been defined as including any food or that is “unsafe.”

“Misbranded” has been defined as including any food that is marketed or labeled in a way that is “deceptive.”

The statute is very broad. It uses the phrase “a risk of death or serious injury.” This statute does not require a “substantial risk” for prison terms to apply.

It only requires “a risk.” Any risk.

This could mean any risk, even a one in a million risk. Even one in ten million. Even one in a billion.

All the government would have to do is show ANY possibility of death or serious bodily injury.

It is impossible to eat ANYTHING without at least having some tiny chance of death or serious injury, due to choking, allergic reaction, etc.

There is a real danger that all the government would have to do to imprison someone for 10 years is to show that they sold, raised, or even received food that the government considers “adulterated” or “misbranded,” and that they knew the government considered the food to be “adulterated” or “misbranded.”

While I hope the courts would not interpret the law that broadly, and they should not, the lobster tail case shows that we cannot rely on the courts to protect us from a bad law.

The End of Raw Milk?

How does this relate to raw milk? “Adulterated,” according to the FDA would include any substance that the FDA considers “unsafe.” The FDA considers raw milk and cream to be “unsafe.”

The FDA, on its website, warns that the consumption of raw milk can cause “serious illness.” In fact, the FDA‘s page on raw milk warns of a risk of death, as well as serious harm to health. The FDA considers ALL raw milk to be unsafe.

The FDA sent a letter to Morningland Dairy stating that their recalled raw cheese products were an “acute, life threatening danger to health.” This statement was included in the FDA letter, despite the fact that nobody has ever gotten sick from a Morningland Dairy product. The only basis for the danger cited in the letter were tests of cheese that was seized in the infamous Rawsome raid, in California. The cheese was placed in unrefrigerated coolers when seized, in the sweltering heat of a Los Angeles summer. It is unknown if the cheese was even refrigerated before being tested, seven weeks later. The tests were done by the California Department of Agriculture, SEVEN WEEKS after the cheese was seized. No samples were sent to the dairy for independent testing, as required by FDA regulations. But the FDA had no problem in relying on these tests as the basis for their letter, and for their persecution of Morningland Dairy.

These actions show what the FDA will do when they see a chance to attack any raw milk product.
The FDA has also stopped the renowned Estrella Family Creamery in Washington from selling their award winning raw cheese, claiming that the cheese is “adulterated.” Nobody has ever gotten sick from the cheese of the Estrella Family Creamery either, but that does not seem to matter to the FDA.

The persecution of the Morningland Dairy and the Estrella Family Creamery, and others, shows that the FDA will go after small raw dairy producers, even when no one has been harmed.

In addition to the “adulterated” issue, anyone who sells and markets raw milk and says almost anything about the product is in danger of being accused of selling a “misbranded” product, if the FDA considers even a single statement to be “deceptive.”

If S510 passes, would the FDA try to jail farmers who produce raw milk or cheese? I certainly hope not, but I do not want the FDA to have the power to do so.

Given the broad and vague language of the statute, any food or supplement that the government decides is “adulterated” or “misbranded” could trigger criminal penalties, if the government decides that the food or supplement carries a risk of death or serious bodily injury.

S510 must be defeated. If any part of it passes, it must be amended to remove criminal penalties and to exclude small farmers and producers.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. The proposed laws have not yet been passed, and hopefully they won’t be.

Stan Fishman is the author of Tender Grassfed Meat. His book describes in detail how to cook grassfed beef, grassfed bison, and grassfed lamb. The book follows the nutritional principles of Dr. Weston A. Price, and uses only the best natural ingredients. The book can be purchased through Amazon.com. Follow Stanley’s blog at Tendergrassfedmeat.com.

Action you can Take

If you would like to preserve America’s small farms, there is something you can do. See the Action Alert on Food Safety Modernization Act released by the Weston A. Price Foundation.

In regards to the dangers S510 poses to raw milk farmers,  see also, FDA’s Ace in the Hole by Pete Kennedy of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Send this post to your US Senators office, directly to the legislative aid that works on agricultural or consumer protection issues. And, please share it with your friends using the share buttons, below.