The produce rule was due in January, but FDA was late submitting it and it has been stalled at the White House Office of Management and Budget for months.
“We are talking about food safety, and every day of delay has an impact on our ability to increase the standards,” Gilmer said.
Western Growers’ Giclas said he wasn’t convinced more regulations or guidelines would help.
“There is no shortage of guidance out there and still we see instances of people who aren’t following that,” Giclas said.
National guidelines expected this year
Despite his skepticism, Giclas and Western Growers have been working with the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh and independent researchers to develop national commodity-specific guidelines for cantaloupes.
SuslowTrevor Suslow, research extension specialist at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California-Davis, has been helping with the national guidelines, and said he expects they will be published in a couple of months.
However, Suslow said he thought more could have been done to educate growers across the country about safe harvesting, handling and distribution in the wake of last year’s deadly listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo.
“I think there was a missed opportunity,” Suslow said Aug. 23. “I wish we could have done a better job of getting existing information to county extension agents and others who were already engaged with the smaller growers.”
Suslow said much of the information in the new national commodity guidelines is already on the books.
“They are largely what we already know,” Suslow said. “The big issues (in the new guidelines) are about raising the bar of expectations for all producers.”
The Packer’s national editor Tom Karst contributed to this story.