Changes to food safety regulations should be reviewed before they become law, agriculture and fresh produce advocates said in late September.
The United Fresh Produce Association joined the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in asking the Food and Drug Administration to propose a second draft of its rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act before issuing final regulations.
In a Sept. 24 release, United Fresh said FDA should study public comments and issue a revised proposal for more comment before issuing a final rule.
“FDA is going to have a lot of pressure on them from all sides, and they have already telegraphed that they are considering significant changes to the rules,” said David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C. “It would be good see what they come up with and what they think are the fixes before it goes to final rule.”
Gombas said Sept. 26 that FDA officials have indicated they may reevaluate water standards in the produce safety proposed rule, and the agency may also want to add a microbial testing requirement to the preventive controls rule.
At the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in September, members urged Congress to let the FDA postpone final rules until a second draft of proposed rules can be published for public input.
By order of the U.S. District Court in Northern California, final regulations related to the food safety legislation are due from the FDA by June 30, 2015. The advocacy group Center for Food Safety was successful in arguing before the court that FDA illegally missed Congressional deadlines for food safety regulations. Through the FSMA, Congress set July 2012 as the date food safety rules should be final.
“I am learning from conversations with my fellow NASDA members that they too are concerned about the ability to enforce rules that are unclear,” Oregon Director of Agriculture Katy Coba, chairwoman of NASDA’s Food Regulation and Nutrition Committee said in a news release. “Growers in my state are concerned about the complexity of following multiple rules and feel some alternatives might be a better way to proactively regulate certain commodities.”
Some NASDA members also said they have heard producers in their states express fear that the agency’s enforcement of domestic growers will be greater than imported food producers, according to the release.
The FDA has published proposed regulations for the produce safety rule, preventive controls for food facilities, foreign supplier verification and third-party auditor accreditation. All of those proposed regulations have comment periods that end in November.