POLITCO Covers Challenges in FSMA Implementation for States

This fall the LGMA was interviewed by reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich (@hbottemiller on twitter) for a story in POLITICO magazine.  Her piece, States face long road on produce safety, aims answer the question of how individual states will implement the Food Safety Modernization Act throughout the nation.

The article was well-researched and written and it unveils the massive undertaking this new law presents for individual states as they work to assist FDA in bringing produce farms into compliance.  Although, the article is available only to paid subscribers of POLITICO, which provides its readers information on important public policy debates, the LGMA is summarizing it here in our blog — with Helena’s permission, of course.

The article does a great job of explaining how complex and expensive the job of what is estimated to be 40,000 produce farms into compliance with the new law.  The article also does a great job of explaining how the LGMA is a model program that is already in place and working to provide mandatory government inspections of leafy greens farms.

 

The article states that the LGMA is a “voluntary $2.8 million program, which industry funds through a participation fee of a penny per case of produce.”  And that it “puts strict standards on the growing and handling of romaine, kale and other leafy greens, with more than 180 requirements, including comprehensive food safety plans, training for workers and environmental assessments to flag risks, whether from leaky water pipes or deer trouncing through fields.”

Our hope is that FDA will work cooperatively with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to serve as a mechanism for verifying compliance with FSMA.  And this may soon become reality.  The article points out that for regulators outside of the leafy greens industry, a program like the LGMA seems like “a dreamland that bears little resemblance to their worlds.”

Even though produce groups throughout the U.S. are in support new food safety laws, implementation is a long way off.  Even here in California, the challenge to get all farms under compliance will be huge.  Since the state produces over half of the fruits and vegetables grown in the nation, it’s estimated there are 23,000 produce farms that will be covered under FSMA. Florida, which is the second-largest produce state, has an estimated 3,000 covered farms, and other states are still trying to determine how many of their farms would be subject to the rule.

The bottom line is that states simply don’t have the funding to implement inspections like what the LGMA provides. Yet, their challenge is to find a way to make it happen.

As we have stated in the past, the LGMA is happy to provide any assistance we can in showing people throughout the U.S. what we’ve done and how our program works.   In the meantime, we appreciate Helena’s work to explain this important issue.


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