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A Roundup of Responses to Landmark Food Safety Rules

With the Friday release of the two first food safety rules, which were mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law by President Obama two years ago, came a flood of responses from a variety of stakeholders, many of whom had lobbied for the rules and had for months called on the White House Office of Management and Budget to release the draft proposals.

Here’s an overview of the comments that have been issued over the past few days:

Grocery Manufacturers Association:

“Today, we applaud the Obama Administration and the FDA for releasing the first two sets of proposed regulations from the new FSMA law (preventive controls and produce safety) for public comment,” said Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of GMA. “Consumers expect industry and government to work together to provide Americans and consumers around the world with the safest possible products.  FSMA and its implementation effort can serve as a role model for what can be achieved when the private and public sectors work together to achieve a common goal.

“We are pleased that implementation of FSMA is moving forward and look forward to working with the FDA by continuing to share our food safety expertise and best practices and by evaluating and commenting on the proposed rules.”

National Association of State Agriculture Departments:

“The Food Safety Modernization Act and these rules represent a significant step forward in protecting the American public by focusing on prevention,” said North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, who is also the current President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). “Within agriculture and the farming community, we want to provide a safe product and work collaboratively with the FDA to address any food safety issues to better protect public health. We have seen first-hand the effects of national recalls on consumer confidence and the great economic damage to the farming community.”

Now that the rules are available for public comment, Troxler said it is important that farmers, packers and food manufacturers scrutinize them and take time to offer feedback. “Input from the industry and the public will be essential to ensuring that FDA gets these rules right,” he said. NASDA and its members will make comments on the rules and are encouraging others to do so as well. NASDA and the states will continue to work with FDA to implement FSMA and sound food safety practices that work for producers and consumers alike.

United Fresh Produce Association:

“United Fresh is pleased that FDA has published the draft rules and look forward to working with all stakeholders to conduct a thorough review,” said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president, food safety & technology. “We will work closely with members across the produce industry, leading food safety scientists, other stakeholders and the FDA to ensure the proposed rules are practical and effective for enhancing produce food safety.”

“United Fresh Produce Association has been among the most vocal supporters of comprehensive modernization of the food safety system in the United States, working with members of Congress and the Bush and Obama Administrations, and testifying before House and Senate committees more than 10 times to advance improved food safety for fresh produce,” said Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management & communications.

“We will be analyzing the proposed rules to ensure that they draw upon the principles we have supported throughout the development of the FSMA. The proposed rules must be: 1) commodity-specific, based on best available science; 2) risk-based; 3) consistent no matter where produce is grown or packaged, in the U.S. or imported, large or small operations; and 4) flexible to allow for advances in science and production technology. We are committed to ensuring that those critical provisions, and others, will be integrated into the final rules going forward.”

Center for Science in the Public Interest:

“These proposed rules are the first serious effort to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law two years ago by President Obama,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI’s director of food safety. “The preventive controls proposal really is at the heart of the new law, as it puts responsibility clearly on food manufacturers to make safer products, while also giving FDA new tools to oversee the food safety records and test results of those manufacturers.  The produce safety proposal will also set the stage for growers to use better practices that ensure that the fruits and vegetables we eat are produced under sanitary conditions.  Missing  from the announcement however are the rules to ensure safer imported food.  These proposed rules remain at OMB under review.”

Consumer Federation of America:

“Congress granted FDA essential new food safety authorities aimed at preventing foodborne illness and protecting consumers,” said Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “Preventive controls and produce safety are cornerstones of FDA’s new preventive system. We are eager to review the proposals and provide comments to the agency. We encourage the Administration to release the remaining rules soon so that stakeholders can understand how the rules work together.”

“We look forward to continuing our ongoing dialogue with FDA on implementing FSMA to ensure adequate protection for consumers from contaminated food,” Waldrop said. “Release of these proposals is a good first step towards fulfilling the promise of the new law.”

Produce Marketing Association:

“We’re pleased to see the proposed rules released and are eager to review and assess them,” said Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of PMA. “Throughout the regulatory process, we’ve worked diligently with and will continue to inform key decision makers to help guide these regulations in a direction that will best serve public health and our industry’s food safety needs.”

“In the coming days we’ll provide an online summary of the proposed rules and will be scheduling a free webinar for members with FDA and PMA experts. And, over the next few months, we’ll read and analyze the proposed rules and work with PMA’s volunteer leaders to submit commentary to the FDA. Once the FDA reviews all the comments submitted, they’ll revise the rules in a final form which will include a timeline for implementation.”

“It’s important to remember that these are the first two of many proposed rules that will have implications for every aspect of the global produce supply chain. As more proposed rules are released, we’ll continue to provide updates to our membership and provide commentary to FDA on the industry’s behalf.”

“Food safety remains a top priority for our members and we look forward to effective enhancements in food safety that not only protects public health, but bolsters consumer confidence. FDA has put in a great amount of time and effort to develop these proposals and they deserve our focused attention as the agency asks for our input.”

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

“With the aim of improving food safety through FSMA, Congress rejected a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to food safety regulations,” said Ariane Lotti, Assistant Policy Director with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would put small and mid-sized farm operations out of business, consolidate agricultural markets, and eliminate opportunities for food and farm entrepreneurs in emerging sectors of agriculture – including organic and local and regional food systems.  NSAC will be closely reading the rules to determine whether FDA followed Congressional intent.”

“Ultimately, we want to ensure a safe food supply, strong on-farm conservation of natural resources, and thriving family farms and small value-added farm and food businesses,” said Lotti.  “With scale-appropriate regulations, we can achieve these objectives.  We will analyze and comment on the proposed rules with these goals in mind.”

Consumers Union:

Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, said, “We look forward to analyzing FDA’s proposals.  These rules really go to the heart of the problems we’ve had with food safety in recent years.  The produce rule should take aim at serious problems like the 2006 outbreak of E. coli in spinach, which caused several deaths.  The ‘preventive control’ rule should help put a stop to incidents like the salmonella outbreaks at the Peanut Corporation of America in 2009, which killed nine people, and the Sunland plant last year, which left hundreds of people sick.”

Ami Gadhia, Senior Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, said, “Under the old rules, we’ve been reacting to food contaminations after they happened.  The goal here is to prevent deadly outbreaks before people get hurt.  We’re anxious to dive deep into these proposed rules so we can review and comment on the details.”

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT):

“I am encouraged that the produce safety and preventive controls rules have finally been issued,” said DeLauro. “No one should have to worry that their food will make them or their loved ones sick.  I look forward to engaging with the FDA to make sure that both of these rules are as strong, comprehensive, and enacted as quickly as possible.  And I will continue to press my colleagues to ensure the FDA has necessary funding to ensure the safety of our food.

“Despite today’s step forward, I am disappointed that only two of the long overdue rules have been released and will continue to advocate for robust, timely implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.  Two years is far too long to wait for just two rules to be proposed.  Nothing less than the lives and health of Americans is at safe; we must do better.”

Bill Marler, Managing Partner of Marler Clark (underwriter of Food Safety News):

“You can set all the rules you want. The real question is—are all the players in the industry going to observe them? Where’s the mechanism to make sure the companies that might ignore them are caught before an outbreak happens?” said Marler. “You need boots on the ground randomly testing and inspecting. The FDA doesn’t have the people power to do that. This is really not rocket science. Much of what they’ve done is completely commonsensical, but who is in those plants making sure the companies are doing what they’re supposed to be doing? That’s why you need inspections.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts:

“President Obama today has taken an important step forward in the fight to save lives, prevent foodborne illnesses and lower health-care costs,” said Erik Olson, director of food programs at Pew. “Early in his first term, following a deadly outbreak stemming from contaminated peanut butter, the president promised to make our food safer. Within two years, he had signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which he and bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate worked hard to pass.

“Today, we applaud him and the Food and Drug Administration for taking major action to help fulfill his promise by releasing two important sets of rules to implement the law. Once it is in full effect, FSMA will, for the first time, empower the Food and Drug Administration to take sweeping measures to prevent foodborne illnesses, which sicken about 48 million Americans each year at a cost of more than $77 billion.

“We will continue to work with industry, consumer advocates, survivors of foodborne illness, their families and the administration to ensure that the remaining proposed rules are soon released—and that all the regulations are as strong as possible, quickly finalized and effectively enforced.”

Paul Schwarz, a food safety advocate who lost his father in the 2011 Listeria cantaloupe outbreak:

“This will all depend on funding. Will the House fully fund FSMA? That is the real question. What penalties will be in place for non-compliance? Fines? Jail time? There has to be consequences. This is our lives at stake!”

Global Food Safety Initiative:

“With the two year anniversary of the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) now behind us, on behalf of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), we would like to thank the Obama Administration and the FDA for recently releasing two new, proposed rules related to the FSMA for public comments.”

“As food safety is a shared responsibility that requires greater collaboration, by publishing the proposed rules, we can commence the public comment portion of the rulemaking process and allow all stakeholders the opportunity to provide input and guidance on these draft rules.”

“Today’s food production and processing systems require more “interdependence” from multiple stakeholder groups than ever before. Therefore, we applaud FDA’s collaborative efforts to harmonize global food safety standards, further strengthen the safety of imported foods, and evaluate the role of private certifications for a 21st century regulatory framework. We are pleased with the release of the two proposed rules and look forward to the release of the remaining, unpublished rules, such as the Foreign Supplier Verification for Importers and Accredited Third Party Certification sections.”

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