Michael Taylor, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, told the audience at the Food Safety Summit’s Town Hall on Thursday to expect a document explaining the principles guiding the agency’s internal work for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Taylor was joined at the event in Baltimore by Brian Ronholm, acting under secretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Joseph Corby, executive director for the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), to share updates on regulatory hot topics and answer audience questions.

Michael Taylor
While providing updates on the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Ronholm briefly addressed the controversial modernization of the poultry inspection rule, commenting on concerns raised by last summer’s Government Accountability Office’s report. Left out of Ronholm’s comments was any reference to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study on poultry evisceration line speed that FSIS has used to defend the rule against concerns regarding worker safety. NIOSH Director John Howard sent a letter earlier this week to FSIS Administrator Al Almanza asserting that Almanza had misinterpreted the study’s findings. But the town hall audience had substantially more questions regarding FSMA than about any FSIS projects. In response to a question about whether economically motivated adulteration would ultimately be included in the implementation of FSMA, Taylor said that FDA is planning to address the issue in the next round of comments on revised rule language to be released this summer. As to the timing of those rereleases, Taylor said that, while the agency has been aiming for June, “That’s ambitious. We’re going to work hard to get it done as soon as we can so that we meet our court-ordered deadlines for the final rules.” As for the “strategic direction” document he mentioned while responding to the question about economically motivated adulteration, Taylor told reporters after the town hall that none of the content in it should come as a surprise to anyone. “I’ve been talking a long time about how we’re going to have to change the way we do our work internally to implement FSMA well,” he said, “in terms of how our inspectors approach inspection, how we work with the states, how we focus on technical assistance and guidance for industry …  and then being able to use our administrative enforcement tools efficiently when there is a legitimate public health need to do so.” Taylor said he hopes the document will be a “springboard for discussion” with stakeholders about what happens after the rules are finalized – a conversation that he said can’t wait for the rulemaking process to finish first.