WASHINGTON, D.C. — The journey of the Food Safety Modernization Act continues, but Mike Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, says they should be good for the produce industry.

Taylor addressed attendees of United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference Sept. 10 and said a group within the Food and Drug Administration is working on rules implementation.

“To get high rates of compliance we have to be clear on what the rules are,” he said.

Taylor also indicated that companies who have a strong food safety record have less to worry about.

“When we see a firm that has good food safety culture, that has to affect our oversight, so we can monitor ones that don’t,” he said.

Taylor said FDA will meet its deadlines next summer and fall so the time for comment period extensions is over.

The conference also offered attendees the chance to visit FDA offices, which featured presentations on the rulemaking process for high-risk commodities and developments in the FDA’s food sampling programs.

Congress charged FDA to explore traceability requirements for high risk foods, said Elisa Elliot, microbiologist with the FDA. That process requires the FDA to conduct pilot projects on traceability, report to Congress on the results and designate high risk foods. So far, the FDA has completed pilot projects for fresh produce and processed foods.

The FDA’s report to Congress on the traceability pilot projects is going through clearance but she said it was uncertain when it will be submitted to Congress.

She said the determining of what commodities are high risk will be “data driven, predictive and risk-informed.”

The FDA’s draft approach to designate risk based commodities was issued in February.

Additional reporting by national editor Tom Karst.