Produce leaders push for universal food safety - The Packer

Produce leaders push for universal food safety

01/10/2013 05:01:00 PM
Tom Karst

For some growers, the main concern is a lack of a low-risk status for commodities such as tree fruit, citrus and grapes, said Chris Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash.

Given the complexity of the rule and the questions the FDA poses to the industry, Schlect said it may be tough to respond by the May 16 deadline for comments.

Growers are concerned about the cost of complying with the regulation and how the FDA’s proposed regulation differs from current food safety audits demanded by buyers, Schlect said.

Schlect said it isn’t clear how FDA can have an equivalent system for imports.

“They don’t have enough people to police the state of Colorado, let alone worldwide,” he said.

Though FDA aims for voluntary compliance with the food safety law, there will eventually be regulations on all commercial shipments, Schlect said.

“How do you enforce that and actually make sure people are complying with whatever the law is under FDA?”

The one-size-fits all approach by FDA is disappointing, said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual. He said while the rule talks about science- and risk-based regulation, the rule includes citrus, which Nelsen said is the least-risky commodity.

In Florida, Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange, said he believes the effect of the produce safety regulation will be minor on Florida tomato growers because they successfully lobbied for similar food safety production standards at the state level.

Fairness of the regulation is also a concern for the import community.

“One of our main concerns is that hoping that imports are not treated any differently than domestic produce, that it is held to the same standard and the standards are science-based,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales, Ariz.

Jungmeyer said stressed federal budgets could tempt FDA to make up shortfalls by assigning fees to imports.

“To me, that would amount to a food tax.”

Companies are already facing costs just to comply with food safety mandates, so further fees aren’t acceptable, he said.

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NC  |  January, 11, 2013 at 10:51 AM

It is not necessary to implement the rules in the same way for very small growers. If you buy your food at a roadside stand or Farmer's Market, you know where you food came from. You don't need traceback stickers or coding becuase you bought it directly from the farm. Local food is the biggest growing segment in ag right now, and the big players are trying to set things up so little guys can't compete....

Steve P    
USA  |  January, 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Just because you know who you bought your food from does not make it safe. How do you know the local farmer washed his hands after using the bathroom, or tested his water to make sure he isnt using contaminated irrigation water? Foodborne illness doesn't effect a product based on the size of the farm or whether or not the farmer knows who is buying his crop.

OK  |  January, 11, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Machinery is difficult to steralize. Small food production does not use machinery; that is the difference between safe small production and not so safe large conglomerates. Education for all should be mandatory but focus on size for content. Cleanliness for small producers and cleanliness/machinery steralization for large production are just a sample of content. We should all be on the same page, Food Safety is paramount, the arguing point is simply extent. Everyone should be educated.

Roadside King    
New York  |  January, 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM

Most roadside stands back up to big coolers to take what they are wanting to pitch and sell it price after sale.

Chris Koger    
Lenexa, KS  |  January, 11, 2013 at 02:53 PM

Dragonfly, Many farmers market vendors and roadside stands sell product they didn't grow. Here's a case of an outbreak that puzzled health officials because a grower sold to numerous farmers markets and roadside stands but didn't have the paperwork/labels to provide traceback:

January, 12, 2013 at 08:12 AM

As the trucking industry continues to decline-take a look inside some of those reefer trailers you are shippin your produce on

Farmer Pete    
Pa.  |  January, 12, 2013 at 08:28 AM

Everything that I have heard or read is aimed at the grower, packer and processor, but what about the consumer? I was in Wall Mart the other day and watched at least 20 people in a short time pick up fruit and produce and set it back down and then someone else would pick it up and take it home. Where was those peoples hands before they picked up the produce and possible were they sick or healthy? I think we are spending billions of dollars trying to over regulate an industry that wasn't broke making it impossible for the smaller operations to stay in business. We are regulating this country right into bankruptcy. All These regulations cost you the consumer in the end. Whether that be in the form of higher taxes or higher prices for the things you buy. We are regulating the affordability of the middle class to live in this great place we call the USA. We are going to have the safest and cleanest country in the world but we won't be able to afford to live here! There has to be a happy medium.

Think People    
MI  |  January, 14, 2013 at 01:32 PM

Food safety should be a non-issue. The CDC estimates 3,000 people die from food borne illness annually while it estimates 36,000 people die from the flu. Why are we even regulating food safety? Shouldn't we first mandate all people to be vaccinated against the flu and save 36,000 lives versus 3,000? Stupidity at it best. Thanks Obama

Steve G    
Upstate NY  |  January, 15, 2013 at 09:16 AM

The reality is FSMA creates scale-appropriate ALTERNATIVE regulations for smaller scale farmers to achieve bona fide food safety, not exemptions per se. These growers understand ALL food needs to be safe in the marketplace, period. That is NOT the issue here. What is at stake is expensive regs designed for large scale growers that can easily force smaller growers out of business. Thankfully FSMA recognized one- size-does-NOT-fit-all. Regulations requiring expensive stainless steel packing tables, for instance, are inappropriate and unnecessary requirements for smaller operations -- when linoleum- covered tables are just as cleanable. And yes, farmer training is a highly important means of achieving Prevention. It would be great for Packer businesses to stand up and join the call to Congress to help provide the necessary funding -- as mandated by the Stabenow Amendment in FSMA...

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