Priority of Food Safety
American consumers deserve to have confidence that their food is safe and that the best science is used to ensure that they have access to the most wholesome products. America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to producing safe and affordable food for consumers in the U.S. and around the world. There are several reasons for their strong support for food safety. They share in the desire to have a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. They also have an economic interest because the demand for their products is determined by consumer confidence. Numerous nationwide food recalls have increased consumer awareness of food safety. At issue is whether the current food safety system has the resources, authority and structural organization to safeguard the health of American consumers against foodborne illness. Also at issue is whether federal food safety laws have kept pace with significant changes in food production, processing and marketing, such as new food sources, advances in production and distribution methods and the growing volume of imports.
Oversight of Food Safety
The Government Accountability Office has identified 15 federal agencies that administer at least 30 laws related to food safety. The Food and Drug Administration, within the Health and Human Services Department, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service, within the Agriculture Department, handle most of the government’s food and safety regulatory system. FDA is responsible for ensuring that all domestic and imported food products – except for most meat and poultry derived from the major animal species – are safe, nutritious, wholesome and accurately labeled. FDA shares responsibility for the safety of eggs with FSIS. FSIS regulates the safety, wholesomeness and proper labeling of most domestic and imported meat and poultry and their products sold for human consumption. FSIS inspects all cattle, sheep, swine, goats and horses before and after they are slaughtered. FSIS also maintains oversight during meat and poultry processing into food products.
Beginning on Jan. 26, 2018 farms with more than $500,000 in sales are expected to meet all produce safety requirements, except those related to agricultural water. Farm inspections will not begin until 2019 to assess compliance with the non-water requirements of the Produce Safety Rule for produce other than sprouts.
The FDA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in September 2017 that would extend the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements by an additional two to four years (for produce other than sprouts). AFBF supported the extension.
Additionally, the FDA will not enforce the agricultural water requirements for produce other than sprouts while the rulemaking to extend the compliance dates is underway. Based on farm sales, the proposed agricultural water requirements of the FSMA rule compliance dates are:
- More than $500,000: January 26, 2022
- More than $250,000 — Less than $500,000: January 26, 2023
- More than $25,000 — Less than $250,000: January 26, 2024
- Less than $25,000: Exempt from produce safety rule
The extension provides farmers an opportunity to continue their engagement with the FDA to consider the best approach for implementation.