Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is calling on Congress to delay finalization of new federal food safety rules until more public input can be factored into developing a final comprehensive program.
“The Food Safety Modernization Act will be one of the most sweeping food policy changes enacted in my lifetime, and we need to be sure we get it right,” Troxler says.
We can all agree on the merits of needing a comprehensive program, but we also need a program that works and offers a level playing field with regard to imports and domestic production. What has become clear through listening sessions and discussions with other ag leaders is that there needs to be broader understanding of agricultural production concerns, the Commissioner adds.
“I believe we need to have a second draft of rules open for public comment that takes into consideration some of the issues that have already been raised by farmers and ag leaders. Postponing these rules will also allow needed time for the Food and Drug Administration and the states to make progress on a state-federal partnership on food safety. This partnership must be in place before implementation begins.
“We all want the same thing — a food safety program that works and does not unduly penalize U.S. growers. There’s no question we need FSMA, but it should be a well-thought-out program. This will be a complex program, and I strongly believe a short delay on the front end will likely save us from unwanted outcomes and unintended consequences in the end.”
Troxler’s comments echo the consensus of his counterparts across the country who gathered recently for the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. During the meeting, state agricultural leaders voted unanimously to ask Congress for more time for FDA to review the public comments and provide a second comment period for the revised proposed rules.
The comment period ends Nov. 15 for the proposed rules for produce safety and preventive controls.
For more on the Food Safety Modernization Act, go to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm .