SAVANNAH, Ga. — Grower-shippers attending this year’s Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference heard how new produce food safety rules will be implemented.
Doug OhlemeierJoey Johnson (left), president of J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga., talks with Oscar Garrison, division director of consumer protection for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Atlanta, after a Jan. 6 food safety session at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Ga.In a Food and Drug Administration regulatory update, David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said the FDA was supposed to have issued the produce safety rule Jan. 5, but as of the morning of Jan. 6, it hadn’t been released yet. Gombas said officials expect to publish the rule sometime in January.
Gombas outlined what the rule may contain and the timeline for public comment.
“Nothing will change tomorrow other than the proposed rules which are supposed to be published any day now,” Gombas said. “Everyone that is a stakeholder has a right to submit a comment. How you do it can have an impact. I encourage people to work through their associations. Everyone has an opinion on this but your association is a great place to get opinions together on one voice. If you say one thing to the FDA, it will have more of an impact than everyone speaking their own piece.”
Oscar Garrison, division director of consumer protection for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Atlanta, said growers should expect the coming rules to be somewhat vague and not plan to see a guidance document. He discussed how the state agency is changing to better work with packinghouses.
“Our world is changing,” he said. “Our produce is changing. We all need to put our seatbelts on because it’s going to be a wild ride for a while.”
In its 14th year, the Jan. 5-8 show, co-sponsored by the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, La Grange, and the South Carolina Peach Council, Columbia, also featured grower-oriented sessions on commodities such as blueberries, sweet corn, peaches, Vidalia onions and watermelon.