In the coming year, the fresh food industry is looking forward at legislation and regulations impacting food labeling, the continued rollout of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and immigration reform.
Industry groups are prepared for a long partnership with FDA on developing and implementing rules as part of FSMA in 2014 and beyond.
Last month FDA announced it would allow the industry and public to comment on a second set of proposed FSMA rules for produce safety and preventive controls. These rules deal with standards for water quality, manure and compost, and mixed-used facilities.
“We believe that this additional step to seek further input on revised sections of the proposed rules that need significant adjustment is critical to fulfilling our continuing commitment to getting these rules right,” said FDA deputy commissioner Michael Taylor in a statement.
The food industry applauded this announcement.
The produce industry had been seeking another opportunity to comment on the next set of rules after submitting detailed comments requesting substantial changes to the initial proposed rules.
“I think they got quite a few comments. I know PMA’s comments were over 100 pages for both the produce and the preventative controls,” said Tom O’Brien, Produce Marketing Association’s Washington representative.
Since many food producers and retailers already have established food safety procedures, FSMA rules must be evaluated with current practices in mind.
“It’s not just evaluating what FDA proposed, it’s evaluating in light of what the industry is doing. Because the more you can coordinate those, the better it is,” said O’Brien.
In fact, FDA extended the comment period three times to accommodate industry response.
Even with a federal judge-imposed deadline of summer 2015 for FDA to complete all the FSMA rules, the food industry is encouraging a steady and thorough approach to the new food safety reforms.
“We feel there is plenty of time to do another round of proposed rules and give the industry the opportunity to comment on those revised proposed rules,” O’Brien said.
Other FSMA rules are making progress early this year. The comment period for the proposed third-party evaluation and imported food rules will close Jan. 27, and the comment period for the proposed animal food safety rules will close Feb. 26.