News Feature | April 7, 2014

California Weighs In On FSMA's Proposed Rule On Produce Safety

By Laurel Maloy, contributing writer, Food Online

FSMA Empowers The FDA

During the comment period for the Food Safety Modernization Act’s proposed rule for Produce Safety, a number of food industry associations have already given their two cents in hopes of amending the proposal

The comment period for the proposed Produce Safety rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is still open for comment. All concerned entities are encouraged to submit comments to the FDA for consideration prior to its finalization. 

The Almond Board of California (ABC) has requested a blanket exemption or variance in writing. Based upon the fact that 100 percent of commercial almond production occurs in California and that all are governed by Marketing Order regulations, the ABC feels FSMA regulation would be a redundancy. In a 10-page letter to the FDA, the ABC encourages “guidance” rather than “prescriptive regulations”. It alludes to the fact that all commercial almond handling falls under the auspices of the ABC, and therefore does not require further regulation.

The California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) has a different outlook. Its webpage states that 90 percent of the leafy greens grown in the U.S. can already meet FSMA requirements at no cost to the public. This implies there will be a cost to the public for FSMA implementation and that the FDA will be imposing that cost, which is not the case.

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Certified members of LGMA are aligned with its system, in place since 2007. However, non-LGMA members are exempt from auditing by this organization. LGMA asks the FDA to consider using the California and Arizona LGMAs as a means to verify leafy green handlers’ compliance with FSMA. It has also requested that the FDA sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the LGMA citing “other groups” who currently work with the FDA through such a process. It is further requesting the FDA provide industry-specific training programs, similar to LGMA Tech, a program facilitating training of all farm personnel on food safety practices. The complete 13-page comment can be read here.

The FDA acknowledges the value of existing or new compliance programs. However, it is not expected to grant any kind of blanket exemption to those produce handlers already bound by national or regional marketing agreements. According to a spokesperson for the agency, certain requirements could possibly be amended at a later date, based upon documented scientific data.

The comment period for FSMA’s Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption is open until Apr 18, 2014, 11:59 PM ET. Click here to provide comments to this particular proposed rule. You can view all comments submitted to date here.