FDA has, yet again, extended the comment period for two of the agency’s major proposed rules, the rule on preventive controls for food manufacturers and the rule on safety standards for fresh produce. Comments on both rules are now due November 16, 2013. Earlier this month, FDA released a number of resource documents targeted to produce farmers to explain the proposed produce safety rule and solicit the agricultural industry’s input.
The proposed produce safety rule was released for public comment on January 4, 2013 and, as required by the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA), proposes science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms. The proposed rule sets standards associated with identified routes of microbial contamination of produce, including: (1) agricultural water; (2) biological soil amendments of animal origin (3) health and hygiene (4) animals in the growing area and (5) equipment, tools and buildings.
Although the proposed produce rule covers most fruits and vegetables while they are in their raw or natural (unprocessed) state, it does not apply to raw agricultural commodities that are rarely consumed raw, those produced for personal or on-farm consumption, and (with certain documentation) those destined for commercial processing, such as canning, that will adequately reduce microorganisms of public health concern. In addition, some farms would not be covered by the rule, or may qualify for a partial exemption based on factors including the monetary value of their food sales and to whom they sell. The partial exemption would still subject eligible farms to certain modified requirements, and could be withdrawn in certain circumstances.