FDA announces Food Safety Modernization Act standards

On January 4, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the long-awaited proposed standards for foodborne illness prevention and produce safety. Called the “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,” the rules will be used to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2011.

This is the next step in the laborious process of standardizing strategies to minimize the potential of microbial contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“OPGMA commends the FDA in its efforts to be inclusive of the various stakeholders, including Ohio’s produce growers. This was an unprecedented process and one welcomed by OPGMA,” said Lisa Schacht of Schacht Farm Market in Canal Winchester and president of OPGMA.

Early on, the FDA solicited advice from OPGMA in numerous ways, including an organized a tour of several farms by FDA representatives. The result is a comprehensive and robust set of proposed rules and guidelines to fulfill the vision of the FSMA.

“FSMA and its implementation effort is an example of what can be achieved when the private sector and government work together,” Schacht said.

It will take some time to thoroughly review and analyze the 547-page document of proposed rules that directly impact our industry. It is expected the final rules will include various exemptions for farms based on sales volume and will give great weight to state/regional marketing agreements.

“OPGMA launched the Ohio Produce Marketing Agreement (OPMA) two years ago and we believe the FDA will support the agreement toward our goal of improving food safety standards,” said Bob Jones, chair of the OPMA advisory group and manager of The Chef’s Garden in Huron.

OPGMA will submit comments on behalf of the Ohio produce industry. All farmers are encouraged to review the proposal and to submit their own comments to the FDA by May 16, 2013. To learn more about the proposed rule and to submit comments, please visitwww.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm334114.htm.

A representative of the FDA will attend the OPGMA Congress on January 22 in Sandusky to discuss the proposed rule. All famers are invited to attend the event at no charge, including all of the food safety education programs. Please visit www.opgma.org/congress for details.

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