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FDA Considering Extension of FSMA Produce Safety Comment Deadline

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering extending the May 16 comment deadline on the produce safety rule in response to multiple requests by stakeholders, an agency official said Monday.

“That’s seriously being considered,” said James Gorny, the agency’s Senior Adviser for Produce Safety, when asked about the possibility of an extension during a National Food Policy Conference panel on the produce safety rule.

A wide variety of farm groups, including the United Fresh Produce Association and the National Family Farm Coalition, have requested more time to review both the proposed produce safety rule and the preventive controls rule, which were both mandated as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.

David Gombas, head of food safety at United Fresh, told conference goers that the produce industry is “not thrilled” by the current May 16 deadline.

“We’ve had several meetings and we’ve discussed this, but it’s not only this rule, it’s also the preventive control rule. It’s complicated and interwoven and we need more time to review them,” said Gombas.

United Fresh and dozens of other produce commodity groups last week wrote to FDA seeking to extend the comment period to 180 days after FDA releases proposed rules for the foreign supplier verification, third party certification and preventive controls for animal feed rules.

“We understand that it is FDA’s intention to ‘coordinate’ the comment periods for all of the FSMA rulemakings,” read the letter. “Our industry fully endorses this approach and such coordination will be essential to an understanding of these interlocking rulemakings. Moreover, as subsequent proposed rules are issued, meaningful opportunity must be afforded to stakeholders to comment on the effect of all of the proposed rules together.”

Small and alternative agriculture groups have written to FDA seeking a 120-day extension, to September, arguing that farmers need more time to review the rules, especially considering that spring is a busy time for growers, the rules are lengthy and some individuals have limited or no internet access.

On the same panel Monday, Sarah Klein, a senior attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, argued that deadlines should not be pushed back any further. She said in ten years FSMA could just be beginning to take full effect.

“That’s kind of depressing,” she said. “Consumers are ready now.”

This article has been corrected – it originally incorrectly stated that the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has requested an extension.

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