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FDA to Publish New Produce Rule with 120 Days for Comments

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is about to publish a new produce safety rule and will extend the comment period on it to 120 days, according to Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food.

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The Hagstrom Report, a subscriber news service, said Taylor made the announcement while speaking to the national Organic Trade Association, at a two-day meeting that ended Thursday in Washington, DC.

The new produce safety rule is one of four mandates Congress gave FDA in the year-old Food Safety Modernization Act. The rules were due out in January, but have been held up for an internal review by the White House.  

The other three new rules will cover preventative controls for food facilities, foreign supplier verification, and preventative controls for animal feed facilities.

Organic growers had asked Taylor for the 120-day comment period — double the normal time —because the draft rule will be coming out during spring planting season.  

While Taylor agreed, he later told The Hagstrom Report that FDA had decided to go with the longer comment period even before he met with the growers.  He also acknowledged the rule will be a lengthy one.

Taylor told Food Safety News last week that the delay in releasing the draft rules for comment was simply due to the “logistical challenge” of the volume of rule-making called for by the new food safety law.

Separately, Taylor responded to questions about changes in antibiotic use in animal agriculture.  One organic grower suggested large meat producers will just get their staff veterinarians to come up with new justifications for using antibiotics.  Taylor replied that FDA is out not only to change the use, but the entire regulatory regime involving animal antibiotic use.

Taylor said if the change were just cosmetic, he would not be spending his time on it.

No mention was made of a release timeline for the other FSMA rules.  The four rules have been pending under review by the Executive Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for the past five months.  OMB is a unit of the White House.

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