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Pest Free Food Supply Act Introduced in Congress

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The bi-partisan legislation would force EPA to withdraw a proposed regulation that would remove the authorized food uses of sulfuryl fluoride.

| April 12, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Tom Graves (R-GA-14) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5), along with a bipartisan group of 13 other representatives, introduced the Pest Free Food Supply Act. The legislation would force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw a proposed regulation that would remove the authorized food uses of the industry standard fumigant, sulfuryl fluoride (SF), often used in commodity and food processing facilities. If this EPA action is allowed to go forward, food production and pest management sectors will be left without a broad-spectrum fumigant and few viable pest control alternatives, creating a potential crisis for food safety throughout the United States.

“Georgia’s pest control sector helps commodity and food processing facilities ensure the safety, quality and affordability of their products through the use of SF. Appropriate fumigation is a key component of the sanitation regimens companies follow and I am pleased that we have a bipartisan coalition in Congress that recognizes the importance of this safe, common and scientifically sound process,” said Rep. Graves, the lead sponsor of the bill.

“If EPA moves forward with this proposed regulation based on emotion, instead of scientific facts, it will cost consumers and industry dearly and has the potential to send American jobs overseas,” Graves continued. “I want to be sure that the agriculture and food industries are able to continue producing safe, affordable, high-quality products without the threat of excessive bureaucratic burdens and regulations coming from Washington.”

Rep. Schrader, lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, said, “This proposed regulation represents another example of overreaching by the EPA. We need a smart, science based regulatory structure, not one based on emotion. The EPA formerly acknowledged that phasing out the use of SF will do little to decrease fluoride exposure. Therefore, their actions make little sense. I urge my colleagues to join Congressman Graves and me in cosponsoring the Pest Free Food Supply Act to force the EPA to withdraw this misguided proposal.”

Lawsuit threats by environmental activist groups caused the EPA to flip-flop on its science-based approval of SF’s residue tolerances under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). As a result, on January 19, 2011, the agency proposed revoking the tolerances for SF residues on foods. EPA itself has admitted this action would have no meaningful public health benefits because SF contributes, in their words, “a tiny fraction,” of overall human aggregate fluoride exposures.

Joining Reps. Graves and Schrader are 13 original cosponsors: Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Bob Latta (R-OH), Austin Scott (R-GA), Steve Southerland (R-FL), Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), Ted Yoho (R-FL), David Valadao (R-CA) and Paul Broun (R-GA).

The Pest Free Food Supply Act is supported by members of the Sulfuryl Fluoride Agricultural Coalition whose members include: American Agri-Women, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, California Walnut Commission, California Women for Agriculture, Cardinal Professional Products, Cocoa Merchants' Association of America, DFA of California, Dow AgroSciences, National Confectioners Association’s Chocolate Council, National Pasta Association, National Pest Management Association, North American Millers’ Association, Sunsweet Growers Inc., Trical, USA Rice Federation, Western Growers.

The Pest Free Food Supply Act directs the EPA Administrator to withdraw the proposed order published in the January 19, 2011, Federal Register (76 FR 3422) pertaining to the pesticide sulfuryl fluoride.

•          Sulfuryl fluoride (SF) is a gaseous fumigant frequently used to treat a variety of commodities and food products. Common applications include mills and food processing facilities that process cocoa, rice, peanuts, pasta, dried fruits, seeds, walnuts and many other commodities.

•          The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed the use of SF as a replacement for methyl bromide (MB) since the Montreal Protocol determination that MB is an ozone depleting chemical. MB is being phased out globally. In 2002 EPA presented the manufacturer of SF with the 2002 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award for developing SF and bringing it to market.

•          In January 2011, after being threatened with lawsuits by outside activist groups, EPA proposed an order in the Federal Register to revoke the food uses for SF. EPA proposed the withdrawal because certain drinking water systems contain high levels of naturally occurring fluoride that potentially pose an increased risk of dental fluorosis in children.

•          Sulfuryl fluoride is the smallest contributor to total fluoride exposure. EPA itself has described it as a “tiny fraction.” EPA has admitted its proposed withdrawal will have no meaningful public health benefits.

•          If finalized, the withdrawal order will leave food production and pest management sectors without a broad-spectrum fumigant – and few viable pest control alternatives.

•          Naturally occurring fluoride is not a pesticide and does not meet the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) definition of, “pesticide chemical residue.”

•          EPA already regulates fluoride levels in drinking water via the Safe Drinking Water Act.

•          If finalized, this EPA action would inevitably send a number of American jobs overseas.

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