(Nov. 29) Work on a new model produce code for safety-related standards at the farm level is ongoing by the Association of Food and Drug Officials, said David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

The model could eventually become a template for produce safety at the farm level that individual states could make into law, he said.

Gombas — representing both United Fresh and the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association — said he has worked with the York, Pa.-based Association of Food and Drug Officials since early this year, advising them in their effort to compose the code.

Marion Aller, Tallahassee, Fla., chairwoman of the AFDO produce safety committee, said the group might have a first draft by early next year. She said it would be fairly general in nature, with regional or commodity-specific issues addressed in another document.

Aller said the goal of the group is to provide states with language they could adopt for fresh produce safety regulations.

Members of the produce safety group include representatives of consumer groups, several state governments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and several produce industry associations.

The group adopts model codes for various industries to encourage uniformity of regulation among states.

Other groups have been invited to participate in drawing up the model produce code, including Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers and Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Restaurant Association and Food Marketing Institute.

Gombas said United Fresh has not yet taken a position on the produce code, but acknowledged it could be the type of oversight United Fresh and others in the industry have been seeking,

“The way it is going right now seems to be a good approach, but we haven’t even gotten to the first draft of the first document yet,” he said.

Gombas said Florida’s tomato industry successfully asked the state to write regulations so the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services could enforce good agriculture practices for tomatoes grown there.

However, when Florida industry leaders suggested this approach to tomato growers in other states, they found that not all states have the authority to implement the same type of regulation.

Gombas said the Florida tomato industry approached the Association of Food and Drug Officials to see if they could write a model code for tomatoes that other states could also adopt.