Officials with the Food and Drug Administration get high marks for their willingness to meet with the produce industry — anytime and anywhere, it seems.

While we might complain that these same officials aren’t allowed to divulge specific details, dates and revisions to proposed food safety rules, they have never been hesitant to share what they can.

Another prime example of this was the Sept. 8-10 United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference. Mike Taylor, deputy commissioner at the FDA, spoke to the Sept. 10 breakfast general session about the food safety regulatory process.

Taylor indicated produce companies with strong food safety records have less to worry about with the new regulations than those who don’t.

That’s a fairly ambiguous statement, since nearly everyone thinks they have a good safety culture and track record.

Taylor also acknowledged the FDA’s rules have to be as clear as possible about what is expected from the industry in order to secure voluntary compliance. That’s an encouraging sentiment.

With court-appointed hard deadlines next year for the preventive controls rule (August 2015) and the produce safety rule (October 2015), the industry will soon know much more about how the agency will adjust these far-reaching regulations after receiving thousands of comments from the industry in the past few years.

The level of complexity of these regulations is daunting, and face-to-face meetings like those Sept. 10 at the conference can only help, but the next year will tell if the FDA has been listening to industry concerns.

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