FDA pushes back food safety comment deadline as lawmakers ask for more time

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2013 - FDA has extended the comment deadline for two of its proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules, the agency announced yesterday. Though comments on accreditation of third-party auditors and foreign supplier verification programs (FSVP) were originally Nov. 22, FDA will now accept comments until Jan. 24, 2014.

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FDA says is it permitting the extension to “allow interested persons an opportunity to consider the interrelationship between these two proposed rules and the proposed rule announced in October 2013, ‘Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals.'”

The FSVP rule outlines regulations for importers of food, and, if approved, would have those importers perform hazard analyses to evaluate their imports' likelihood of causing illness or injury.

The third party verification rule sets standards that would specify the qualificaitons for a certification body, including “the minimum requirements for education and experience for third-party auditors and their audit agents,” according to FDA.

Meanwhile, it appears FDA has agreed to allow another round of comments on its FSMA produce rule. In a meeting with Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., FDA officials agreed “provide additional opportunity for farmers to give input prior to the rule being finalized,” according to a press release from Rep. Hastings' office.

Initial comments on the rule are due this Friday, Nov. 22.

Last week, Rep. Hastings sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg arguing the FSMA produce rule as written would impose “one-size-fits all regulations” on fruits and vegetables.

“This means that lettuce, which is known to be susceptible to food safety risks and grown on the ground, and fresh apples, which have never been a known source of a food safety outbreak in history and are grown in trees, would be regulated in the same way,” Hastings wrote.

A number of groups that advocate for smaller, independent organic farmers, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the Texas-based Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, have also pushed back against the FDA's proposed produce rule.

NSAC says the proposed FDA standards do not allow farmers to contain “sustainable” farming practices promoted by current federal organic and conservation programs. The group dedicated a section of its website to guiding members through the commenting process. FDA will stop accepting initial comments on the produce and preventative controls rules this Friday, Nov. 22.

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