On Monday, the newspaper reported that growers of Pacific Rose apples are posting quality control supervisors to make sure orchard workers are using the new handwashing stations popping up among the trees in the Yakima Valley.
Orchardists are getting prepared for the day when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration begins full enforcement of the FSMA, but they don’t necessarily like it.
“We’ve believed they’ve taken a wrong turn at the outset,” Chris Schlect, president of the state’s powerful Northwest Horticulture Council, told the newspaper.
Still, growers are getting ready with porta-potty trailers and handwashing stations and enlistments in Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programs by an estimated 90 percent of apple growers. FSMA rules for growing, harvesting, packing and storing produce, including tree fruit, are said to run 548 pages.
The tree fruit growers are lining up with efforts to have FDA rewrite the rules and subject them again to public comment. That movement was started by state agricultural directors and was quickly joined by the national trade association for fruit and vegetable growers.
The comment period on the rules as currently drafted ends Nov. 15.
Washington’s orchardists want all fruit growers who sell locally to be exempt from the FSMA, not just small farms. They also want to see existing regulatory costs reduced and water quality standards reconsidered.
The apple growers say the rules need more clarification to answer questions such as whether workers can use their own canvas bags during harvesting and when handwashing really needs to occur.
They don’t want FSMA rules conflicting with requirements imposed by major retailers and warehouses.
Finally, they argue that tree fruit already has a great safety record, and they question how much more consumers will want to spend for not that much more.
The FSMA was signed into law in January 2011, but FDA has been delayed in adopting the enforcement rules.