Public Comment Closes on the Food Safety and Modernization Act

On Friday, November 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closed public comments on a portion of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) known as the produce and preventive-control rules. These rules aim to reduce the risks of food borne illnesses in produce, and serve as the first regulations on raw unprocessed produce, as well as the first update of any kind to food safety regulations in 70 years. The FSMA was signed into law in January of 2011, and the produce and preventative-control rules are likely to take effect in 2015. Nearly 20,000 comments were posted in response to the rules, among them notably letters from bipartisan and Senate-House collaborative organizations, many of which urging for a complete “re-do” of the legislation. Many organizations were concerned how these rules would impact organic and small-scale farming techniques and producers. For instance a stipulation in the document mandates that there must be a 4 month wait period between the application of manure and the harvesting of produce, and a 9 month wait period between the application of compost and the harvesting of produce. These regulations not only contradict USDA regulations for Organic food production, but could also greatly negatively impact the yield capabilities of organic farmers. Many argue that this legislation would act to further de-incentivize organic food production. Furthermore, many are worried that the rules, many of which designed to impact large-scale industrial farms, would be inappropriate or infeasible for small-scale farmers to comply with. It is still unclear how or which rules would apply to small scale farmers and producers. Other organizations urged the FDA to ensure that these rules align with existing rules and regulations in place by the USDA. Existing food safety legislation for the milk industry for instance, or controversially the USDA Organic regulations would conflict with the proposed rules of the FDA. While it is not clear what the FDA’s next step for this legislation will be, many organizations are urging them to formally review all comments, and present a second draft to the public for comments. To learn more, check out these great articles:

Food Safety Act Sows Anger with Small Farmers | Many in Congress want to Give FDA a “Do-Over” on Draft Rules | Organic Farmers Question Food Safety Regulations | Organic Growers Urged to Comment on FDA’s Draft FSMA Rules