The produce safety rule was one of two rules released on the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the federal food safety law.
A second rule released Jan. 4 is the regulation designed to prevent foodborne illnesses originating from food facilities.
The proposed rules are available for public comment for the next 120 days, according to a news release from FDA. After the comment period, the FDA could take up to a year to publish final rules, Taylor said.
Industry leaders said they immediately began reviewing the lengthy proposals.
Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, said Jan. 4 he was glad the produce safety rule was finally out.
“The industry has been in limbo for the past year waiting for the rules to come out, so at least now we have begun the process of looking at them and over the next 120 days we will talk to membership and groups and around the country to provide some input on what we see,” he said.
The 547-page produce safety rule is so long that average growers may have difficulty reviewing the proposal, said Chris Schlect, president of the Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Horticultural Council. He predicted the 4-month comment period may be extended because of the length of the proposed rules.
“The fear I have is not so much for the big operations because they have people on staff trained to deal with these kinds of things,” he said.
While the smallest farms are exempt from regulation by the food safety law, Schlect said mid-sized family operations might be driven out of business by the regulation.
Schlect said he hopes the FDA provides flexibility for low-risk commodities, including apples and pears.
Officials for PMA and United Fresh declined comment until they could review the proposals in-depth.
Produce safety rule
The produce safety rule proposes enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce. This rule proposes science- and risk-based standards for fruits and vegetables, according to the release.
The produce safety rule proposes that larger farms comply within 26 months after the final rule is published in the Federal Register, according to the FDA release. “Small” and “very small” farms would have more time to comply, according to the release. All farms will have more time to comply with water quality requirements.