Ag Policy

Food Safety Rules on Horizon

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed by Congress in December 2010, and signed into law by President Obama the next month. We are all in favor of food safety, and sure, it seems like it should be “modern”. How do we ensure safe food? There isn’t as much agreement on that.

Charged with implementing FSMA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing a plan, called a “rule”, to prevent food safety problems, or at least some of them. The FSMA does not deal with regulations for meat, poultry, and egg products, or address any food safety risks other than disease-causing microorganisms.   

But for producers, growers, handlers, and processors of fruits and vegetables – and on eaters of fruits and vegetables – the new FSMA rule will have major impact. If you grow, handle, process, or eat fruits and vegetables, you should care about this rule.

It turns out that, even when taking a “modern” (read “scientific”?) approach  there is no one clear answer about how to achieve safe food. And different approaches have differing impacts on the structure of our food system. There is no “one size fits all” solution. That is where politics comes into play.

Proposed regulations (rule) have been released by the FDA, and the agency is seeking public comments until November 15. No matter what your role in the food system, your comments are welcome, and every comment will be read by the FDA.

The proposed rule is long and complex, and the implications of specific parts of the rule are not always easy to determine. But you do not need to comment on every aspect of the draft rule to make your voice heard. And the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), drawing on the expertise of both scientists and practitioners, is developing materials that help the rest of us get our minds around the issues and implications. Visit the NSAC FSMA website to access these materials, and to learn more about how to submit comments to the FDA.