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FDA to Extend Comment Deadline for Produce Safety Rule

Responding to multiple stakeholder requests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to extend the comment period on the produce safety rule beyond May 16, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said on Thursday.

“We appreciate that these are complex rules to go through and we do intend to extend the comment period so we can go through all the concerns and address them fully,” said Hamburg during a Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittee hearing. “I think it’s a reasonable request.”

Hamburg said she expects the extension will be 120 days, which doubles the amount of time interested parties have to weigh in on the rule, which contains the first mandatory on-farm food safety standards.

The announcement came in response to a question from Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) at the hearing. Blunt noted that FDA took two years to draft the produce rule and questioned whether it was reasonable that interested parties had only four months to comment on the lengthy rule, which was released in January.

A large number of farm groups — including the United Fresh Produce Association, the National Family Farm Coalition and several regional specialty commodity associations — have asked the FDA to push back the deadline for both the produce safety rule and a new rule on preventive controls for food facilities. United Fresh thanked Blunt for his question and for “his support of the industry” in a member newsletter on Thursday.

An FDA spokesperson said the agency intends to publish a Federal Register notice sometime next week formally announcing the extension.

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