Food growers and handlers in the United States have until November 15 to submit to the Food and Drug Administration their comments about how two recently proposed rules under the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will impact their businesses.
The FSMA was signed into law in 2011 by President Obama with the aim of preserving the safety of the U.S. food supply. It represented the largest overhaul in federal food safety regulation since 1938 by introducing new regulations for produce farms and facilities that processed food for human consumption.
The rules are meant to prevent food-borne illnesses, which have affected one in six Americans each year over the last decade, by preventing or quickly identifying food-borne pathogens before they contaminate the food supply. However, many small-scale food producers express concern that the food safety rules are designed with larger, more complex and tightly-coupled food systems in mind without regard to how they would impact smaller producers.
The National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition (NSAC) has pointed out a number of concerns regarding the proposed rules, among which include the lack of clarity on the FDA’s definition of “small business” and on the eligibility requirements to qualify for modified requirements or exemptions. According to the NSAC, the FDA’s parameters for how it classifies “qualified facilities” does not accurately consider whether they would be able to shoulder the costs of complying with the rules. The NSAC also suggests that the Produce rule could be amended so that it has a more targeted “focus on possible routes of contamination” that would not overwhelm smaller growers with the task of implementing, monitoring, and maintaining records for dozens of different fruits and vegetables on one farm.
The National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition urges all businesses impacted by the proposed rules to send to the FDA their personal stories and comments, so it might amend the rules to better balance the needs of smaller food producers and handlers with the need to preserve public food safety.