Right before the winter holidays, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to revise certain sections of the proposed rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In the official statement, Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, stated that FDA plans to make significant changes to four key provisions found in the proposed Produce and Preventative Controls Rules, including the raw manure and compost standards, as well as the water quality standards. These revisions were considered necessary to allow FDA to meet its goals of producing new food safety standards that are flexible enough to accommodate the diversity of the produce sector, as well as be practical to implement. Taylor also stated that there may be other revisions to the proposed rules, which will be determined after FDA completes their initial review of the public comments. FDA plans to publish the revised proposed rules by early summer 2014. At that time, they will seek public comment on only the revised sections of the proposed rules.
Wild Farm Alliance (WFA), in collaboration with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), participated in a major campaign to assist farmers, conservationists and consumers submit public comments to FDA on the proposed FSMA rules.
WFA commends FDA for responding to the concerns expressed in the thousands of comments it received and for making the decision to revise some of the flawed provisions in the proposed Produce and Preventative Controls Rules. The revision of the manure and compost standards is extremely important, given that these soil amendments help promote healthy, biologically-diverse soils and are key to Organic and sustainable farming systems. WFA is cautiously optimistic that FDA's approach of revising key provisions in the proposed FSMA rules and opening them up to public comment will lead to more sustainable and practical final rules.
But, in addition to the four issues identified by the FDA, there are many other issues that need major revision. In particular, it is critical that the co-management of food safety and conservation be addressed in the Produce Rule. As currently written, the proposed Produce Rule has the potential to incentivize habitat destruction on farms. Revisions need to be made to provide protections for wildlife habitat and on-farm conservation practices, such as windbreaks and grassed waterways. WFA is also concerned about the narrow view of the scoping notice of the Environmental Impact Statement to accompany the rule. This should also be addressed.
As FDA continues the process of reviewing the FSMA public comments and generating a second list of key provisions to be addressed for public comment, WFA will continue to collaborate with its partners to work towards FSMA rules that help to reduce food safety risks on farms while protecting biodiversity and natural resources.
Photo courtesy of NRCS