Only two more Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules remain to be finalized. Final rules for Sanitary Transportation and Intentional Adulteration are due out next spring. But with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) release last week of final FSMA rules on Produce Safety, Foreign Supplier Verification, and Accredited Third Party Verification, long-sought reform has become reality. It was a different time in 2010 when a bipartisan Congress adopted the biggest change in food safety regulation in the past century. But “making it so” has consumed five years. All the FSMA rule-making has seen extensive public involvement, and some of it received multiple rounds of public comment. Reactions to the final rules, especially for produce, have been rapidly coming in. A statement on behalf of California growers who are members of the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) made one of the most important points about the FSMA produce rule by calling it “… a good thing for us all — Not just because it’s now the law, but because it’s the right thing to do.” Once published in the Federal Register later this month, the final rules take effect in 60 days. For produce, the focus will now shift to determining how growers can verify their compliance with FSMA. “We believe our program can serve as a vehicle to verify compliance with FSMA for California leafy greens because it operates with USDA and CDFA oversight, utilizes government auditors and is fully funded with no cost to tax payers.” LGMA says. The final produce rule was welcomed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition but with some continued concerns. NSAC questioned how frequently farm-raised produce will be inspected as the rule speaks of both “risk-based” and “routine” farm inspections. Currently, inspections of produce before it is available for retail sale is rare. USDA’s Microbiological Data Program, which tested produced in concert with about 10 state labs, ended three years ago. FDA also does some testing, but not on the scale of MDP. Still, the FSMA rules are being hailed because they are “a comprehensive system of preventive measures.” Groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) see the rules as making the safest food supply in the world more secure. Dr. Barbara P. Glenn, chief executive officer of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, called the FSMA rule-making “a herculean accomplishment” for “massive changes to food safety authorities … .” In reading though all the reactions, it occurred to me that one thing was missing. No one has yet nominated Mike Taylor, who has managed FDA’s food safety reform, for an appropriate award. I am thinking of something like the “iron pants” award for historic accomplishment in food safety. We may need a little time to work on what the trophy should look like.
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