New laws have been written to enhance U.S. food safety but the food production industry is still waiting to see how final rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act will affect their operations.
“Regulations are still in development,” said David E. Gombas, vice president, scientific and technical affairs, United Fresh Produce Association. Gombas, speaking at the recent Texas Food Safety Conference in Austin, said the industry is preparing for those new rules and improving food safety as commodities and as individual operations. Key elements of those preparations include preventive controls for fresh produce safety, preventive controls for good manufacturing practices operations (GMP), and import rules.
Also on the agenda are issues of intentional contamination and the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
Gombas recommended everyone in the produce industry “get involved. The Texas Vegetable Association, the Texas Produce Association and others will be watching and submitting comments for you,” he said. “Only those at the table will be heard.”
Gombas said individual commodities are hoping that preventive controls for fresh produce will be “risk-based by commodity. FDA recognizes that the industry that grows and handles commodities knows better than they do how best to minimize risks in a practical way.”
He said the industry already has commodity specific guidance (some voluntary) for some commodities and others are being developed. Some of these voluntary guidelines will become mandatory with the new produce rules.
Improving food safety by individual operation is also critical, he said. That includes attention to worker training. Gombas said managers should consider: “What are the risks? How likely are they in your operation? What can you do about them?”
He recommended managers address at least the five most likely risks—water, soil, workers, equipment and animals. He said managers should determine how those risks will be controlled and monitored and if corrective action is necessary.