FDA S.O.S. - The Packer


11/09/2012 09:17:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

The Food and Drug Administration needs help.

With the Nov. 6 election, most believe the FDA will soon issue long-delayed proposed regulations related to the Food Safety Modernization Act. That would be only the first step toward a system the industry hopes will provide more consistently safe domestic and imported fruits and vegetables.

The new food safety law mandates the FDA develop regulations for all food under its jurisdiction. The Government Accountability Office said the FDA must establish a voluntary user fee program for importers that encourages third-party certification. Encouraging importers to pay for voluntary service may prove a challenge.

In creating a system that will govern hundreds of thousands of growing operations, the FDA must leverage the resources and staff of other governments around the globe.

Some industry leaders say FDA could be more effective if it certifies private laboratories as testing facilities. That could reduce the delays in testing imported produce and reduce waste and inefficiencies.

The industry will know more about FDA’s stance on third-party inspections after it issues proposed rules for foreign supplier verification.

The FDA does need help, and even the process of deciding who should assist them and under what terms is a monumental task.

It is time for the agency present its plan, because each day that passes will delay the arrival of credible food safety oversight.

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Kathy Means    
PMA, Newark, DE  |  November, 13, 2012 at 08:35 AM

Produce industry: Don't wait for FSMA. Certainly the new FSMA rules will be a boon to produce safety (and mean changes for the industry). We still have a way to go, however. We need to see the proposed rules, go through the comment period, give FDA time to assess the comments (and there will be many), all before we ever see final rules. And though there are three key proposals waiting to be set free by OMB, there are other rules mandated by the law that will have to move through the same process. PMA will be active in the process and will enourage our members to do so as well. However, our industry cannot afford to wait on these rules -- morally, financially, or reputationally. Every company is responsible for ensuring produce safety to the best of its ability, with or without laws and regulations. Every company should have a robust, active food safety plan (that includes rapid, accurate traceability). And we're not talking about just grower-shippers here. Every company that handles produce needs a plan, even if it only moves a carton/pallet from one truck to another. Part of that food safety plan for buyers is to know that its suppliers have a robust, active safety plan for all the products the buyer purchases. And by buyers I mean all types of buyers, including shippers who buy from others, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, and foodservice operators. FSMA is important, but it is not a silver bullet, nor is it a crutch. Government regulation is just one component of food safety. And we cannot wait for the rules to come out. Produce safety is our responsibility right now.

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