The United Fresh Produce Association is working at warp speed to submit ideas by Sept. 16 to improve two proposed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory rules designed to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The FSMA is the first major change in U.S. food safety laws in about 70 years. President Obama signed the Congress-passed measure into law in 2011.

Outgoing United Fresh Board Chairman David Krause calls the FSMA law “a landmark food safety initiative.” Krause is president and chief executive officer of Paramount Citrus in Delano, Calif.

The two proposed FDA measures include the produce safety standards rule which aims to further expand food safety at the farm production level. The preventative controls for human food rule targets improved food safety measures during post-harvest handling and processing.

Together, the proposed regulations total more than 1,000 pages.

On Jan. 16, the FDA published the proposed rules in the Federal Register Jan. 16 which launched a four-month public comment period. The comment deadline of May 16 was extended after about 90 agricultural groups asked for more time to study the rules and provide feedback.

Agricultural groups, consumer groups, and others interested in food safety are expected to comment on the proposed regulations. Consumer groups are expected to ask for even stricter rules than those proposed by FDA.

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The FSMA proposed rules and irrigation reform were the front burner issues discussed during the 2013 United Fresh convention held in San Diego, Calif. in May. The event drew about 5,000 people, including produce growers and shippers, wholesalers and distributors, fresh-cut processors, and retail food service.

During a FSMA breakout session for growers, United Fresh Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel discussed how the rules would impact the produce (fruit and vegetable) industry.

Stenzel called the government’s proposed rules a “one-size-fits-all’ approach, placing the same food safety regulations across all crops and business sectors in the produce farm-to-fork food chain.

“The challenge is the FDA doesn’t understand as much about the fruit and vegetable industry as they should,” Stenzel said.

In some areas, Stenzel says the regulations are not needed which could result in unjustified and costly regulations.

Stenzel said, “Some regulatory requirements for the citrus industry would apply equally to the leafy greens industries while in reality each sector has completely different food safety risk profiles.”

Stenzel says the rule feedback which United Fresh provides to FDA on this and other issues needs scientific research to support the conclusion.

United Fresh strongly supports food safety improvements to safeguard the nation’s food supply, the farm leader says, but regulation should be applied only where needed – not a blanket approach for the entire industry.