The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have enough resources to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said Wednesday in an appearance before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee. In answering a rapid succession of yes or no questions from U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Taylor said that the agency has enough resources to issue the final rules, but not to implement FSMA. “We will continue efforts to make the best use of the resources we have, but simply put, we cannot achieve FDA’s vision of a modern food safety system and a safer food supply without a significant increase in resources,” Taylor said in his initial statement. During his time, Dingell asked Taylor to submit details about what the agency would require. When FSMA was approved in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that FDA would need an increase of more than $580 million to fund the expanded food safety activities. Importer oversight, developing partnerships with state and local agencies, retraining inspectors and providing technical assistance to small growers and processors  were examples Taylor put forward for where additional resources are needed. Taylor also received many questions from committee members about the produce safety rule. Several members noted their disappointment with it while also praising FDA’s decision to reissue revised language in the produce and preventive controls for human food rules. Imports were another a hot topic for members such as U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) who was keen to assure his constituents that foreign producers would be held to the same standards as domestic ones. And, in response to a question from U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) about why it took two years from the time FSMA was signed into law in January 2011 to begin releasing regulations, Taylor stated that it was a function of the complexity of the issues. Implementation of FSMA is set to begin after all the final rules are published in June 2015.

  • CA Leafy Greens LGMA

    When the LGMA submitted its public comments on the Produce Safety Rule to FDA in September, it offered a solution to help reduce the government’s cost to implement FSMA. The proposal is for FDA to utilize the LGMA’s existing program of mandatory government audits to verify compliance with science-based food safety practices that meet or exceed those contained in the new FSMA regulations. If accepted, this proposal would allow 90 percent of the leafy greens produced in the nation to become compliant with FSMA at a cost of approximately 1 cent for every box of leafy greens produced in the state.

    This cost includes an extensive training program to ensure all those who work in the leafy greens fields are aware of understand the required safety practices. And, since the leafy greens community is already funding this program, it would be at no cost to the government. The proposal garnered support from several members of Congress. Over 20 of them, from both sides of the aisle, issued a letter to FDA urging them to support the LGMA’s proposal.

    During the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee meeting Mike Taylor was quoted as saying “The Leafy Green Marketing Agreement is a real demonstration of leadership on the part of that industry…” He also stated that the LGMA has standards in place help monitor themselves and that those standards likely meet or exceed what the federal standards will be. He added on the topic of FSMA verification, FDA wants to cooperate with and place reliance on programs like LGMA that work to monitor and verify and demonstrate compliance.

    See a video of the exchange here: