Our Comments to FDA on the Revised Produce Rule
The U.S. FDA is continuing to move toward implementation of sweeping new federal laws under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As part of that process, the LGMA is providing FDA with additional public comments on the proposed Produce Safety Rule. The latest version of the Produce Rule was published by FDA in September, with comments due by December 15, 2014. FDA is expected to issue the final Produce Rule in October of 2015.
The LGMA is staying on top of all developments in the rules that make up FSMA. We have been working closely with FDA to make sure that LGMA metrics are aligned with – or exceed – the requirements of the new law.
We commend the FDA for the work they have done to date on the Produce Rule and the other FSMA elements. Changes made to this version of the rule reflect much of the earlier input provided by the LGMA and others throughout the produce industry. This leaves only a few items the LGMA will be addressing in this new round of public comment.
In our view, the revised water rules issued by the FDA were much improved over the previous version. In particular, the removal of the 7-day water testing requirement for surface waters was welcomed by most of the agricultural community. But we do believe the newly proposed system can be improved. In our comments to FDA, the LGMA will be recommending that FDA ask growers to use water testing and monitoring procedures that are similar to those required under the LGMA Metrics. First, because we believe this system allows producers to stay on top of water quality changes so they can be addressed in real time. And, second, the system is something that many producers are already used to doing. This system is working well for leafy greens producers as well as other commodity groups.
Another important area addressed in the latest version of the Produce Rule was the definition of “farm” and “harvest.” The changes with respect to the harvest definition made it clear that some common leafy greens practices –such as field coring— are examples of “harvest” rather than of “processing,” and are subject, therefore, to the Produce Rule’s provisions. This was a huge improvement over the original version of the rule, and was a major focus of the LGMA’s initial comments to the Produce Rule. There is a bit of clean-up needed in the language concerning the new definition that is in the actual proposed rule, which the LGMA will address in our comments.
In its public comments, the LGMA will express concern about the relaxation of regulations related to the use of compost and raw manure. The original rules included use-to-harvest intervals when raw manure or compost have been utilized, but these were eliminated – at least for the time being – in the revision. The LGMA metrics do not allow for the use of non-composed manure in leafy greens farming operations, and we are recommending that, at the very least, the kind of harvest intervals originally included in the rule be reinstated.
Small Farm Exemptions
The LGMA remains opposed on principle to exemptions from federal food safety laws. Based on our experience, we believe that all farmers can and should implement basic food safety practices on their farms, and that the rules should not exempt anyone from the obligation to do so. Unfortunately, the new rules actually expand the number of farms that will now be exempt under FSMA. We will address this in our new round of comments.
Once again, we want to commend FDA for the work it has done to improve the Produce Safety Rule for all stakeholders. This is a long, complex and tedious process, but it is clear FDA is making progress.
You can read a full copy of the public comments submitted by the LGMA here: