The next incarnation of the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety rule for fresh produce is expected to be made public in September, with agency officials hopeful that they will be scheduling meetings before the end of the year to gather more industry input.
“I’m not even going to try to describe all of the changes. We received a lot of comments… there were obviously some places where we didn’t get it right at all. We are focusing on those areas,” said Roberta Wagner, deputy director for regulatory affairs at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
Wagner joined leaders from the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, the Sprout Safety Alliance and the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) for a Web seminar Aug. 26 on the status of rules mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The FDA is under court order to publish the final produce rule by Oct. 31, 2015. Agency officials had said they would have the revised produce rule available to the public this summer.
About 160 attendees were online for the beginning of the 90-minute Web seminar. The quarterly presentations are part of the efforts of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, a public/private entity partly funded by the FDA.
Wagner repeated many of the points made by officials during a similar update in July, including the FDA’s shift toward prevention and away from the one-size-fits-all approach to inspections and enforcement, she said.
Inspectors will be trained in specific topics, instead of being expected to review medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical businesses, fresh produce operations, etc., as they do now, Wagner said.
“We will educate before we regulate,” Wagner said. “We want industry to gain and maintain compliance.”
Robin Kalinowski, coordinator of the Sprout Safety Alliance, had similar messages. She said the sprout group showed a draft of its curriculum Aug. 12 at a “feedback” meeting in California. Twenty-one industry people attended and 16 people submitted feedback forms.
“We are still tabulating those (16 forms),” Kalinowski said Aug. 26, adding that several people suggested the sprout group needs to have a manual for trainers as well as one for those attending training sessions.
Kalinowski said one of the biggest challenges the Sprout Safety Alliance has identified is the difficulty in identifying all of the growers who could benefit from the food safety training.
“We are getting some names from the Produce Safety Alliance and some retailers,” she said, “but identifying (the small growers) is our most challenging task.