The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has asked the Food and Drug Administration to issue another draft of the agency’s proposed rules on third party auditors/accreditation bodies and the foreign supplier verification program.

In a Jan. 27 letter to the FDA, the Nogales, Ariz.-based association said the industry should have a chance to simultaneously review all the food safety rules FDA has proposed. The FDA has already indicated they will issue second drafts of the produce safety rule and the preventive control rules.

“In a case such as this ×´he most profound regulatory overhaul of food safety rules in some 70 years× it’s critical that FDA get this right,” the association said in the letter. “It is necessary for FDA to re-open the comment periods on all the previous proposed rules so as to be able to comment on the rules as a package.”

In other comments to the FDA, the association said it supports the use of third party auditors as a tool for ensuring and improving food safety practices, and urged the FDA to consider how to recognize the existing audit culture and practices used by foreign suppliers and importers.

“We support measures to allow for regulatory audits by accredited third parties to be one option to comply with the Foreign Supplier Verification Program,” the letter said.

The FPAA also expressed caution about the wisdom of proposed FDA access to consultative audits by third-party auditors.

“Facilities will become leery of conducting audits with accredited third parties, with the possible unintended consequence that the detail and frequency of reports would begin to decrease, as well as the preventive benefits of the process,” FPAA said in the letter.

In comments about the proposed rule on foreign supplier verification program, the FPAA said it supports the phase-in period so that importers and their foreign suppliers have ample time to implement the rule. FPAA said the FDA should explore the idea of giving Mexican food safety agencies the authority to oversee food safety practices in Mexico.

The FPAA said the foreign supplier verification program would place significant new documentation and recordkeeping burdens on importers and suppliers by requiring English translation of all documents required.

“Translation of this documentation, including audits, would be a major expense incurred by importers and foreign suppliers,” the FPAA letter said.