BALTIMORE — The Food Safety Modernization Act allows for wiggle room on how growers of different commodities in different areas of the country stay within the law.
Michael Taylor said he hopes the industry provides suggestions about such alternatives — especially for the water-related portions of the rule.
“With the comment period now extended to September, I hope we get some good input from the industry,” said Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration.
“We recently had a good meeting with growers in the Northwest near the Columbia River basin and they feel challenged by the water rule. … If what they are doing is successful, and it appears it is, that could be an alternative under the proposed rule.”
Taylor was in Baltimore May 2 to speak at the 15th annual Food Safety Summit. Following a town hall panel discussion, he further discussed the proposed produce rule.
“We are a good ways away from requiring compliance,” Taylor said. “For the largest growers, it would be another five years (after the rule goes into effect) before they would have to comply with the water requirements.”
The water related portions of the rule have been described by those in industry and government as the most complicated section of the produce rule. They include requirements about water quality, testing and record keeping.
The propodsal repeatedly states that government is seeking input about current practices and different variables based on growing regions and commodities.
“ ... We tentatively conclude that it would be appropriate to allow for alternatives to the requirements,” according to the FDA proposal.
“ ... We are working with USDA and other stakeholders to facilitate research into application intervals that would be commodity- and region-specific ... The proposed language allows sufficient flexibility for you to establish measures that are best suited to your needs based on practice and experience.”
In addition to individual growers having the right to propose alternative practices, Taylor said states can petition for variances.
“We are in problem-solving mode and want to sit down with the data and the people who are successful to come up with the best final rule,” Taylor said.
Growers and shippers who are concerned that their specific commodity shouldn’t be subject to other provisions of the proposed rule can also suggest alternative practices.
“Flexibility and avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach is central to our whole strategy on produce safety and the regulation itself,” Taylor said.
Comments can be faxed, e-mailed or filed online. Written comments can be faxed to: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB, Attn: FDA Desk Officer, 202-395-7285; or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To file comments online, go to http://tinyurl.com/FSMA-ProduceRuleComments.