FDA Holds Comment Session On Food Safety Rules

FDA Listening Session, Wooster, OH

In mid-April, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg announced that the comment period for the Produce Safety Rule, one of a number of proposals set forth as implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act continues, would be extended by another 120 days. Originally, the comment period was to end on May 16; it will now end on September 16.

“The fresh produce industry has long supported mandatory, enforceable, commodity-specific food safety practices based on the best available science,” said Tom Stenzel, CEO of United Fresh Produce Association, one of several organizations that sent a letter to Hamburg on April 11 calling for an extension. “An additional comment period is necessary to ensure that these rules are effective, efficient, and serve the interests of the entire supply chain and our consumers.”

Since the Produce Safety Rule was first proposed earlier this year, FDA has hosted a series of listening sessions across the country, where growers large and small, and other interested parties, could learn more about what’s in the proposed rule and voice their concerns. One such hearing was held on April 30 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster. A sizable crowd, made up mostly of small to very small growers (many of which considered themselves organic producers), heard comments from FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor, as well as Samir Assar and Joy Johanson, who are part of FDA’s Produce Safety Staff and helped craft several of the key points in the rules.

“We have to rely on the role you play as a producer,” said Taylor in addressing the audience. “The rules must be flexible and risk-based, and must also consider the needs of smaller growing operations with less resources.” Following Taylor, Assar and Johanson went into detail on what crops are covered in the rule, the likely compliance dates (which vary based on the size and income of the operation), and the major focus areas covered under the rule (water, animal-based soil amendments, worker hygiene, equipment, and farm animals). Much of this information was covered in American/Western Fruit Grower’s March 2013 cover story, and in a webinar presented earlier this year by the Produce Marketing Association (www.pma.com).

Wide Range Of Concerns

Following the remarks from Taylor, Assar, and Johanson, audience members had a chance to ask questions, voice their concerns, or share stories of their experiences on the farm. The FDA panel members answered questions in as much detail as they could, and encouraged attendees to make formal comments as well. With the understanding that much of the room was made up of small farms, a number of themes emerged in the line of questions.

• New standards vs. organic standards. Several organic growers questioned whether the new rules would supersede the practices they normally follow in organic production, particularly when it comes to the use of manure.

• Water testing. In answering concerns about time frames and methods, Taylor noted that this part of the rule has been left intentionally vague, to allow for industry input.

• Compliance time frame and scope of coverage as it relates to farm size and income. “We wanted to be able to exempt farms from the rules,” said Taylor. However, Taylor also emphasized that a farm is not exempt if a food-related illness is traced back to the farm. “Our strategy needs to involve helping people comply,” Taylor said. “But regardless of the exemption, everyone is a part of the food safety system.

The last audience question came from someone who mentioned the upcoming USDA census, and pointed out that “older” farmers outnumber younger ones. “These regulations might deter new, young farmers from getting into the industry. This needs to be considered as the rules are being made.”

Comments Critical

During FDA’s Food Safety Listening Session in Ohio, both Michael Taylor and Samir Assar emphasized that FDA is serious when it comes to seeking comments and input from the industry. “Getting the regulations right is the first and most critical step in this process,” said Taylor.

There are three ways you can comment on the proposed rule:

• Comment electronically by going to http://1.usa.gov/12EuSG4

• Fax written comments to 301-827-6870

• Mail written comments to Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1601, Rockville, MD 20852.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Food Safety Stories
a group of ripe strawberries
Food Safety
April 14, 2016
Produce Industry Cries Foul On Latest ‘Dirty Dozen’ Listing
Alliance for Food and Farming says new number one a way to rattle cages of mainstream media. Read More
Consumer Choices
Food Safety
April 5, 2016
GroupGAP Program Announced For Small, Mid-Size Growers
Food safety program designed to be affordable, demonstrate compliance. Read More
weed free watermelon field
Cucurbits
March 29, 2016
The National Watermelon Association’s Bob Morrissey Talks Food Safety
The association’s executive director answers questions on grower concerns, facilities, and the best course of action for watermelon growers to be in compliance with the law. Read More
Group of vegetables laid out on table
Farm Management
March 23, 2016
Vegetable Surfaces’ Microscopic Structures Contribute To Foodborne Illness
University of Illinois researchers studied the ability of pathogenic viruses to adhere to fresh produce surfaces. Read More
Packing carton of "Limited Edition" pole grown cucumbers recalled by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce. (Photo credit: CDC)
Food Safety
March 22, 2016
CDC: Salmonella Outbreak Linked To Imported Cucumbers Is Over
The Centers for Disease Control reports the source of contamination for the cucumbers distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce has not been identified. Read More
Veggies outside
Food Safety
March 21, 2016
FDA Announces $19 Million In Funding To Support Implementation Of Produce Safety Rule
The funds will be used to help states establish safety standards, training, education and more. Read More
Part of a sustainable cropping system includes desiging fields to wrap around hilly terrain to limit runoff and soil erosion.  Photo credit: Rosemary Gordon
Food Safety
March 16, 2016
Western Growers Pledges $1 Million To The Campaign For Produce Safety
The commitment from Western Growers brings the total campaign funding for the Center for Produce Safety to more than $10 million. Read More
The Latest
Food Safety
May 2, 2016
Department Of Justice To Investigate Dol…
Salad mix packaged at the company’s Ohio facility has been connected to four deaths. Read More
Food Safety
April 21, 2016
It’s Your Duty To Challenge The &#…
The Environmental Working Group is at it again, making it critical for growers to keep customers informed about production practices and the safety of produce. Read More
Farm Management
April 19, 2016
Food Safety Training Grants Available
USDA announces $4.7 million available in grants for food safety training, outreach, and technical assistance. Read More
Food Safety
April 14, 2016
Produce Industry Cries Foul On Latest &#…
Alliance for Food and Farming says new number one a way to rattle cages of mainstream media. Read More
Food Safety
April 5, 2016
GroupGAP Program Announced For Small, Mi…
Food safety program designed to be affordable, demonstrate compliance. Read More
Cucurbits
March 29, 2016
The National Watermelon Association’s Bo…
The association’s executive director answers questions on grower concerns, facilities, and the best course of action for watermelon growers to be in compliance with the law. Read More
Farm Management
March 23, 2016
Vegetable Surfaces’ Microscopic St…
University of Illinois researchers studied the ability of pathogenic viruses to adhere to fresh produce surfaces. Read More
Food Safety
March 22, 2016
CDC: Salmonella Outbreak Linked To Impor…
The Centers for Disease Control reports the source of contamination for the cucumbers distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce has not been identified. Read More
Food Safety
March 21, 2016
FDA Announces $19 Million In Funding To …
The funds will be used to help states establish safety standards, training, education and more. Read More
Food Safety
March 16, 2016
Western Growers Pledges $1 Million To Th…
The commitment from Western Growers brings the total campaign funding for the Center for Produce Safety to more than $10 million. Read More
Food Safety
March 11, 2016
Pistachios Recalled Due To Possible Salm…
Limited number of in-shell and shelled nuts sold under Wonderful label. Read More
Food Safety
March 7, 2016
FDA Stops Farm From Processing, Packing …
Samples from Henry’s Farm in Virginia tested positive for Listeria. Read More
Farm Management
March 3, 2016
 FDA Seeks Public Comments On Assessi…
The agency plans to assess consumer health risk from the use of raw manure as fertilizer in growing crops. Read More
Food Safety
February 20, 2016
Grant Awards To Fund Regional Centers Fo…
FDA announces funding for the second two of four Regional Centers: the North Central location and the Northeast Center. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Western Growers Launches Tech Talk Serie…
Speakers from a variety of agricultural technology areas will make presentations on a variety of topics including drone/satellite imagery and food safety software. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Hot Topics Tackled At Mid-Atlantic Fruit…
Food safety and GMOs were two of the topics discussed on the first day of the trade show and conference. Read More
Cucurbits
January 27, 2016
Imported Cucumbers Connected With Multis…
Since the Salmonella outbreak occurred in September, nearly 900 people in 39 states have fallen ill. Read More
Food Safety
January 25, 2016
Antimicrobial Wash Reduces Risk Of Patho…
The product is USDA certified organic and is expected to be used in commercial flumes and rinse tanks that wash fresh produce. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]