FDA Releases Two Proposals for the Long-awaited Federal Food Safety Rules

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released two proposed rules for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law on January 4, 2011. One of the rules is about produce safety and other is about processing. Both rules have 120-day comment periods. Additional rules related to implementation of FSMA are expected.

The proposed Produce Safety Rule would establish standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms in light of identified routes of microbial contamination of produce, including agricultural water; biological soil amendments of animal origin (such as manure); health and hygiene; animals in the growing area; and equipment, tools, and buildings. The proposed produce rules are intended to provide growers flexibility in their approach to food safety so it can be appropriate for the scale of production and type of agriculture.

The proposed Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule would apply to many domestic and foreign food processors, with a focus on preventing problems that can cause foodborne illness. These firms would be required to have written food safety plans that identify hazards and specify the steps that will be put in place to minimize or prevent those hazards. FDA would evaluate the plans and continue to inspect facilities to make sure the plans are being implemented properly.

While both rules are proposed and not final, it is expected that once the final rules come out there will be time built in to comply. The FDA has recognized that small and very small businesses may need more time to comply and are proposing rolling phase-in dates. FDA will soon issue its proposed rule on importer foreign supplier verification. Future proposed rules will address preventive controls for animal food and accreditation of third-party auditors.

CCOF will be working with partners such as OTA and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to analyze the proposed rules for impacts on our members and identify any potential conflicts with organic practices. We will continue to update our community about the content of the rules and areas that may need your comments.