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November 21, 2013

Food Safety Modernization Act Proposed Rules Miss the Mark

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

 
The Food Safety Modernization Act is about 1,000 pages of rules to make food safer by preventing food-borne illness. But American Farm Bureau food safety specialist Kelli Ludlum says the FDA’s plan to do that is too broad to really do the job well. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has the story.
MillerThe Food and Drug Administration is working on rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act. That law aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. But many farmers are submitting thousands of comments to the FDA, because they feel like some of the proposed rules miss the mark.
LudlumWe all know that there have been problems with e. coli in leafy greens or with salmonella in tomatoes and the industry has made a lot of strides on their own to try to curb some of those problems. But that’s where it really makes sense for FDA to focus their efforts. Unfortunately they’ve chosen to go significantly broader than that and regulate a whole scope of commodities that have never had food-borne illnesses, and frankly, because of the way that they’re grown and consumed are very unlikely to have those issues.
MillerAmerican Farm Bureau food safety specialist Kelli Ludlum says the FDA’s proposal doesn’t move toward the risk-based approach the new law was designed to use.
LudlumOne of the things that we’ve heard a lot about is apples and cherries, fruits that tend to grow on trees or bushes that are off the ground, that typically, because of the nature of the fruit itself, acidity content and things like that, just tend to be more resistant to pathogens that cause food-borne illness. Citrus is another example, again the acidity content of the fruit; it’s almost always peeled before consumption. And yet they get rolled into the same regulations.
MillerLudlum says focusing on fruits and vegetables that very rarely cause a problem is a waste of valuable resources.
LudlumInstead of shrinking the size of the haystack, essentially, where they’re looking for that public health needle, by choosing to regulate all produce, we’re not really making progress on shrinking the haystack. The problem is that we don’t have the resources, nor does it makes sense, even if we did have the resources, to inspect everything and so we really want FDA to focus its efforts and frankly its limited dollars, in this time of tightened budgets for everyone, on those commodities that are more likely to have issues.
MillerComments will be accepted through November 22 and the next step from FDA will likely be in the spring. Johnna Miller, Washington.

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