The produce industry is submitting comments to the Food and Drug Administration about Food Safety Modernization Act rulemaking.
The FDA is accepting written comments until May 16.
In March, the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., requested comments from its leader members who served on the group’s leadership and councils about the FSMA.
David Gombas, United Fresh’s senior vice president of food safety and technology, said the organization received comments from a wide spectrum of growers of row crops, bush crops and tree crops, and from packinghouses, retailers, foodservice buyers and scientists.
Though the association and its members plan to submit comments individually and as a group, Gombas said the industry needs to see all five rules in the FDA’s suite of interlocking regulations.
So far, the FDA has only released the produce and preventive controls rules. The others — the foreign supplier verification, animal preventive controls and third-party accreditation — remain at the Office of Management and Budget, Gombas said.
“Generally speaking, we think the FDA did (as good of a) job as it could on the first round,” Gombas said, speaking of the FSMA’s proposed rules.
“It’s very clear they spent a lot of time thinking through this and how to meet the statutory requirements in a way that would be enforceable on farms. They took a light hand approach on some things like animals and recordkeeping and a heavier hand with water and compost.”
Jim Gorny, senior adviser for produce safety at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Washington, D.C., said many are submitting detailed questions involving their operations.
The comments assist the agency in developing the companion documents and help industry understand what is and isn’t in compliance, he said.
“The FDA hasn’t taken a one-size-fits-all approach to produce in the Food Safety Modernization Act,” Gorny said. “We’ve taken on all the key routes of contamination that are known. People are still digesting what the FDA has released and are trying to understand the proposed rule’s implications for their business.
“No one’s saying we’ve missed the mark. We’re getting detailed questions to the nitty-gritty. That doesn’t mean we haven’t considered it and we’ve asked a lot of questions. We acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers inside the Beltway. We want to make sure the rules are workable, practical and (push) the ball forward on food safety.”