Food Safety: Additional Perspectives

The passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act certainly affects fruit and vegetable growers across the industry. Here are some thoughts from two industry leaders in stone fruit and potatoes, respectively, on how the law will affect the growers they work with.

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The Food Safety Modernization Act poses new rules for those in agriculture. For the California stone fruit industry, the immediate effect is on packinghouses, which are food facilities in the context of the Act. We have informed our members that each facility needs to be registered with FDA and re-register on a biennial basis. Each facility will be required to conduct a hazard evaluation to identify known or reasonably foreseeable hazards. They also are required to implement preventive controls as well as provide assurances that the identified hazards would be significantly minimized or prevented. A written hazard evaluation and identification of preventive controls must be made available to FDA during inspection, along with documentation that the plan is being implemented. Also, there is now a mandatory recall authority within the Act. We will also be representing to FDA that stone fruits should be considered with a “low risk” rating. — Gary Van Sickle, president, California Tree Fruit Agreement

For potatoes the following is key:
• We believe the bill offers FDA the option to design crop specific approaches to managing food safety risk in commodity specific ways. This would mean that leafy greens would likely not receive the same risk management approach as potatoes. In fact it is possible that some low risk fruits or vegetables might best be managed through voluntary guidance programs developed and administered by industry and reviewed by FDA. For commodities with different risk profiles, actual regulatory programs might be more appropriate.
• If FDA adopts the spirit of the bill which is determining actions on the specific risk characteristics of the crop and how it is consumed, we believe our growers are well positioned to use voluntary guidance developed in consultation with FDA to safeguard the public.
• The provisions that allow for the exemption of small or local entities need to be eliminated. You can discriminate based on risk between commodities but not based on size of grower. This is a prescription for a problem. Provide help to small growers to comply but do not exempt them. — John Keeling, National Potato Council