Can the USDA oversee produce safety - or not? - The Packer

Can the USDA oversee produce safety - or not?

06/25/2009 12:51:11 PM
Tom Karst

He went on to explain that AMS marketing orders and agreements do occasionally address safety-related issues because “[t]he presence or absence of harmful pathogens, toxins, or other contaminants is considered a quality characteristic.” Regarding the proposed National Marketing Agreement for Leafy Greens, the Acting Administrator emphasized that any under such an agreement “would be consistent with FDA guidance and eegulations requirements” and that “[a]ny product deemed an immediate threat to public health by USDA inspection would be reported by USDA to FDA.”

TK: The paper seems opposed to the USDA playing any role in produce safety. More from the report:

Currently, AMS oversees orders for 22 produce commodities.16 The question at issue is whether these agreements and orders serve to “regulate” food safety – i.e. whether AMS can take action to remove “adulterated” (unsafe) commodities from the market.

The language of the AMAA is clear that these programs are meant to be tools to “stabilize market conditions.” However, in at least two existing marketing orders, safety issues are addressed because they can impact negatively on market conditions. Additionally, there is a pending proceeding regarding leafy greens that may deal with safety concerns.

TK: Later, the paper said:

The distinction between food safety and food quality is more clearly explained in the joint U.N. FAO/WHO report, “Assuring Food Safety and Quality: Guidelines for Strengthening National Food Control.”  “Food safety refers to all those hazards, whether chronic or acute, that may make food injurious to the health of the consumer. It is not negotiable. Quality includes all other attributes that influence a product’s value to the consumer.
This includes negative attributes such as spoilage, contamination with filth, discoloration, off odours and positive attributes such as the origin, colour, flavour, texture and processing method of the food.

TK: The paper talks about the rulemaking on a potential national marketing agreement for leafy greens:
From the paper:

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