Posted: December 3, 2014

Let’s Fix FSMA For Good the Second Time Around!

Act Now and Submit Comments until Dec. 15th

By George Reistad

Many of us remember that around this time last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was in the process of trying to finalize a myriad of rules relating to food safety under the auspices of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which became law in 2011. This represented the first time since 1938 that significant food safety reform had been undertaken in the United States.

The charge of overhauling food safety in the United States is a herculean task and one that will have significant ramifications for producers and processors in the future. This is why it is imperative that FSMA be implemented and enforced correctly with an eye towards achieving equitable results for all producers, especially small and mid-size producers who will bear the brunt of the burden with the rules as they are currently written.

The first go around of the Food Safety Modernization Act was rife with vagaries, redundancies, and inconsistencies. Two rules in particular – The Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule – put an inequitable burden on small and mid-sized farms, particularly diversified operations, threatening to handicap present and future progress in developing local food systems and use of organic and other sustainable agriculture approaches. So many regulations in the first iteration of FSMA were unpalatable to the public that almost 22,000 individuals and organizations submitted feedback to the FDA – many, like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), were laudably noted for their grassroots campaigns educating the masses on the deleterious effects those complicated regulations could potentially have on small farms.

Because of this feedback, the FDA went back to the drawing board and re-drafted these regulations. This is the current situation we all find ourselves in and once again it is time to take action. Some adverse provisions of the two rules were revised or removed completely, illustrating that the FDA listened and responded to some of the concerns of commenters. However, too many of those adverse provisions remain such as definitions of farms vs. facilities that would require many small farms to be regulated out of proportion to their operation’s food safety risk, costly water testing criteria that are not rooted in science, other costly regulatory burdens on the modest profits of small farmers, and lack of clarity about impractical impositions on small processers and farmers’ markets to name a few. If you’re interested, you can read more on what’s been fixed and what is still detrimental to small farms and local food systems in this National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition article on top FSMA fixes and fails.

NSAC staff has been hard at work pouring over the re-proposed Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule and has launched a one-stop website with information, resources, and sample comments to get you everything you need to fix FSMA once and for all. After this comment period, the agency will read over the comments and begin publishing final rules later this year.

It’s not hard to comment and the deadline for submitting comments to the FDA is December 15th

Learn more, comment today, and #FixFSMA!

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