Given enough time, the Food and Drug Administration’s work on produce safety rules may eventually find complete favor with the industry.
As it stands now, the agency’s latest revisions are an improvement on earlier efforts.
The revised produce safety rule features more reasonable water testing requirements, and the new rules helpfully broaden the definition of a farm.
The agency made changes in how it defines farms versus a mixed-type facility, and how it distinguishes harvest from processing activities.
Stand-alone, non-farm packinghouses may face more regulation than packinghouses on farms, and that doesn’t seem like good policy.
The issue of finished product testing in food facilities also remains a concern, particularly for fresh-cut operators.
There are other points that may not be resolved with further rule-making. In particular, mandates in the Food Safety Modernization Act to exclude small domestic and foreign growers from regulation are problematic and could cause unintended results. For example, will importers source only from smaller foreign growers to avoid regulatory hoops constructed by the foreign supplier verification program regulations?
The comment period on the proposed changes to the produce safety rule, the preventive controls rule and the foreign supplier verification program will continue to mid-December.
Since FDA has already said it won’t extend the deadlines because of court-ordered deadlines that compel the agency to finalize the rules by next year, that window will give the industry limited time to consider the full weight of the regulation.
While the regulations appear to be getting better, there may not be enough time to make them ideal for the produce industry.
Did The Packer get it right? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.