“The FDA plans publishing the produce safety proposed rule in early 2012,” Sebastian Cianci, spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said in a Dec. 12 e-mail.
Speaking during the Dec. 5-7 Washington State Horticultural Association meeting in Wenatchee, Wash., Jim Gorny, senior adviser for produce safety at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told industry members that the rule had already been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for their final review and approval.
That timing is sooner than anticipated, said Chris Schlect, president of the of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash.
“There are a lot of questions and we’ll see when they issue the proposed regulation just what they contemplate doing,” he said.
Schlect said the FDA will apparently approach produce safety regulations by looking at growing practices rather than trying to identify some commodities as “high risk.”
That is a concern to the tree fruit industry, Schlect said, since fruits like apples, pears and cherries have not historically had food safety issues. On the other hand, the diversity of field crops would make it unwieldy to address each crop with separate regulations. “It is highly likely the focus will be on specific practices, whether is irrigation, employee hygiene, animal exclusion and other practices and not as much into specific crop listing of high risk or low risk for crops,” Schlect said.