Regulatory efforts and scarce resources ought to be directed to actual food safety problem areas, such as what the FDA itself projects to do with its proposed special rules for the growing of sprouts.
Fruit growers do not ignore food safety. We fund additional research and are supporters of the Center for Produce Safety.
We take reasonable actions already, such as keeping herds of domesticated animals from wandering about orchards (As Dr. Johnson said in the 18th century, “A cow is a very good animal in a field, but we turn her out of a garden.”); not picking up grounders; having sanitation facilities readily available to workers; and being alert to threatening activities, such as threats that may be posed by any neighboring cattle feedlot.
These and other commonsense measures can be, and are, the subject of food safety guidance from the FDA. If there is any new and effective practice found that reasonably protects the ultimate consumer, it will be adopted cheerfully.
Finally, unintended consequences to the structure of our industry should be a concern.
Here, all the very smallest produce growers have been exempted by way of a $25,000 revenue test as well as many other smaller growers that only sell within a certain geographical range (the Tester Amendment).
The little farm goes on as before, even though many a past serious food safety event has sprung from small produce operations.
The biggest of farms have the resources to hire food safety experts, handle recordkeeping and pay for tests and procedures.
Meanwhile, the average family orchard is in the middle — most of these commercial operations already have over-extended owner/managers, many other rules and regulations to fret over and obey, and no surplus of cash.
How will these orchards, the traditional backbone of our nation’s tree fruit industry, survive the FSMA?
Chris Schlect is president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash.
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