The Food and Drug Administration released much-anticipated proposed rules detailing standards for produce safety and preventive controls for human food production. Releasing these rules is a major step in the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Obama signed into law two years ago. The law is the first significant overhaul to our nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s.
When writing FSMA, Congress included a number of key provisions to ensure that the bill’s regulations work for small businesses and diverse sectors of American agriculture. Congress took several steps to guarantee that small and mid-sized family farms could adhere to new FSMA produce production standards, reporting requirements, and prevention planning requirements without costly new investments.
“With the aim of improving food safety through FSMA, Congress rejected a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to food safety regulations,” said Ariane Lotti, Assistant Policy Director with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would put small and mid-sized farm operations out of business, consolidate agricultural markets, and eliminate opportunities for food and farm entrepreneurs in emerging sectors of agriculture – including organic and local and regional food systems. NSAC will be closely reading the rules to determine whether FDA followed Congressional intent.”
Specific provisions in FSMA to ensure scale-appropriate regulations include the option for small, mid, and direct-market agricultural operations to comply with equivalent state regulations or modified, scale-appropriate federal regulation. Congress also built in safeguards to ensure that the produce regulations do not undermine beneficial on-farm conservation and wildlife-friendly practices, and do not contradict strict regulations for certified organic production. Additionally, Congress required FDA to differentiate between low-risk and high-risk farm and food processing activities when writing the regulations. Congress also placed a priority on streamlining and reducing unnecessary paperwork for farmers and small processors. Finally, Congress provided alternative means of tracing food through the supply chain, including an exemption for farm identity-preserved products.
“Ultimately, we want to ensure a safe food supply, strong on-farm conservation of natural resources, and thriving family farms and small value-added farm and food businesses,” said Lotti. “With scale-appropriate regulations, we can achieve these objectives. We will analyze and comment on the proposed rules with these goals in mind.”