FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., has outlined a number of immediate next steps in a comprehensive approach to ensuring successful implementation of the Produce Safety Rule established by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
In a speech in New Orleans at the annual conference of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), Dr. Gottlieb announced that the agency has recognized a need for additional efforts to educate the produce industry and state regulatory partners on the new produce safety requirements, and will continue its focus on training, guidance development, and outreach over the next year. This is particularly important since the nation’s farming community has not previously been subject to this kind of oversight.
Produce Farm Inspections: Large farming operations will still be expected to meet all produce safety requirements set by the rule for produce other than sprouts, except those related to agricultural water, by the original January 26, 2018 compliance date. However, Dr. Gottlieb announced that inspections to assess compliance with the non-water requirements of the Produce Safety Rule for produce other than sprouts will not begin until 2019. The FDA and its state partners will use this time to provide more education, training and outreach on the new requirements. In particular, states — in conjunction with NASDA and the FDA — will expand On-Farm Readiness Reviews, already piloted in six states, in which a team of state officials, cooperative extension agents, and FDA produce experts provide farmers with an assessment of their “readiness” to meet the new requirements. State points of contact will receive further information on the change this week in the form of letters from the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and calls are being scheduled to answer any questions.
Earlier this year, the FDA awarded more than $30 million to support 43 states in their development of produce safety programs. This builds on the nearly $22 million that the FDA awarded last year to 42 states. States will receive information from the FDA this week on how existing cooperative agreement funding can be reallocated to provide for additional focus on educational and outreach activities in lieu of inspections.
Training Opportunities for Producers and Regulators: The FDA remains committed to ensuring that produce farmers and state regulators have the training needed to implement the Produce Safety Rule. Training of state regulators will be a top priority for the FDA in 2018, and additional details on training opportunities and other FSMA related training courses will be provided at a webinar being scheduled for October. The agency is committed to working in partnership with farmers and the states, particularly over the next year, to ensure that the fruits and vegetables we serve our families are safe and that consumers have the greatest possible confidence in the produce they consume.
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