Last month, the long-overdue produce rule finally surfaced — all 547 pages covering some 300 commodities.
Thus opens a four-month comment period that will trigger thousands of pages of opinions submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was passed two years ago.
The produce rule won’t be completed for at least another two and final implementation will take another four.
Government never ceases to complicate things. But so far in our analysis, we think most growers will not be heavily burdened by the new rules.
When the spinach industry was devastated after an E. coli outbreak in 2006, we didn’t wait for government to come to the rescue.
In seven months, the industry came together to devise and establish the food safety-oriented Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement in California, and then in Arizona.
Five years later, these public/private partnerships that put science-based preventive food safety programs in place as a core requirement are doing an outstanding job of protecting public health, building consumer confidence and keeping adversity away from producers.
It was the right thing to do, it works and it will continue to serve the members well as government finalizes the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Consumer interest groups, trial lawyers, legislators and politicians who subscribe to the mentality that “if you pass a law, the problem will be solved” often ignore key elements and opportunities within a problem. They scramble for relevance, attention and a revenue stream and typically advocate for bigger and more control by government.
Too often that pandering forces industry to accept the political reality and bear the costs of another new regulation. This approach can actually disenfranchise the people and companies who are best positioned to enhance food safety through problem solving and innovation.
So while the rhetoric begins and interest groups begin to advance the next wave of conversation about how to produce safe food, we will take time to analyze the details in this proposed regulation with an eye toward constructively engaging the FDA and others to perfect these rules.
The good news is we think the standards will be flexible enough to incorporate new science and technology — which will emerge as it always does.
We also suspect that many of the final regulations and protocols will come from industry research and practices that most of the industry is already developing and incorporating.