The Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 13 released its much-anticipated final rule detailing preventive standards for farms which grow, harvest, pack, or hold covered produce for human consumption.
The new rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register around Nov. 27.
The rule, authorized under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), comes after significant public outreach and two rounds of public comments on certain key provisions, and follows the recent publication of the final rule governing food facilities.
Reacting to the new rule, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) group says farmers who fall under the new produce rule will have several years to comply.
In a statement, the LGMA said the organization is carefully combing through the final rule to make sure their own food safety requirements meet or exceed what’s in the new law.
“LGMA members are committed to ensuring that compliance with the LGMA equals compliance with the produce rule.”
LGMA shared these points on the new rule:
- The LGMA does not want exemptions and its members welcome the produce rule. For California growers and handlers of leafy greens, the new law will result in very little change since a nearly identical system to FSMA has been in place for the last eight years.
- The LGMA is committed to aligning with the new law. If there is anything in the LGMA program that doesn’t match up, LGMA has the ability to change its requirements to make sure compliance occurs.
- The LGMA can help with verification of compliance for California leafy greens. The FDA is now focused on determining how to verify that farms are in compliance with the new laws. Currently, FDA has not determined how inspections needed to verify compliance will be implemented or funded.
- LGMA is pleased that the vegetable kale is no longer exempted from the requirements.
“This new law will formalize the system and provide additional government oversight to make sure the laws are being followed,” the LGMA said. “That’s a good thing for us all - not just because it’s now the law, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Ag Processors respond
The Western Ag Processors Association (WAPA) believes the produce safety rule establishes science-based standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce designed to work effectively for food safety across a wide diversity of produce farms.
WAPA says the rule requires food importers to verify that foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that meets U.S. safety standards.
In total, FDA has finalized five of the seven major rules that implement the core of FSMA. The remaining two rules on sanitary transportation and intentional adulteration are scheduled for release in Spring 2016.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) also offered its take on the rule.
NSAC Policy Specialist Sophia Kruszewski said, “We commend FDA for its continued engagement with stakeholders throughout this process, and appreciate the agency’s responsiveness to our concerns. The final rule reflects many of the issues raised by the sustainable agriculture community that led to the improvements we saw in the second draft, and that are retained in the final rule released today.”
Yet the NSAC is disappointed that the rule does not base coverage thresholds on the sales of covered produce. NSAC says it advocated for more clarity and consistency in defining the coverage thresholds.
To avoid discouraging on-farm diversification, and given that the rule only governs the production of covered produce, sales thresholds should be based on covered produce, NSAC believes.
The coalition says the FDA did not make these requested changes, and as a result, the implementation of the rule will require significant oversight to ensure diversified family farms have the education and resources needed to prepare for and adapt to the new requirements.
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