Food and Drug Administration officials briefed nearly 200 participants in a Produce Marketing Association Web seminar about pending food safety regulations.

The Nov. 3 event, moderated by Jim Gorny, PMA’s vice president of food safety and technology, drew 186 participants from 29 states and seven countries.

FDA speakers at the event included:

  • Samir Assar, director of the produce safety staff in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN);
  • Brian Pendleton, senior policy advisor in the Office of Policy in FDA’s Office of the Commissioner; and
  •  Jenny Scott, senior advisor to the director of the Office of Food Safety at CFSAN.

After the speakers reviewed proposed rules issued Sept. 29 and open for comment until mid-December, Gorny asked them questions, including several on how they’d affect various operations.

 “If you got a potato packing operation on a farm, that would currently be excluded from the produce rule because potatoes are typically not consumed raw and they would be excluded from produce safety rule coverage, but if you had a potato packing house off farm — if you are bringing in potatoes from many different farms — would you be covered by the preventive controls in that particular instance?” Gorny asked.

Scott said an off-farm potato packing facility would be covered by the preventive controls rule.

“We would expect that facility to do a hazard analysis with respect to the activities it is conducting and we would expect them to use the produce safety standard and the qualitative assessment of risk that was published along with the produce safety rule to inform their decision as to whether or not there are significant hazards associated with that operation,” she said.

Scott said there may be operations with no significant associated hazards.

Answering a question, Assar said whole peaches, citrus, apples and other raw commodities will be considered ready-to-eat foods and be subject to environmental and finished product testing under certain conditions.

Gorny asked if a wholesale distribution facility for a retail operation would be subject to the preventive controls rule. Scott said any facilities that are not direct retail establishments would be subject to that because they are holding food.

Gorny asked about provisions in the regulation related to the Foreign Supplier Verification, specifically relating to whether all imported foods will be subjected to the same scrutiny. Pendleton said importers will have the chance to demonstrate whether some of their foreign suppliers may warrant less frequent auditing based on risk factors such as the supplier and commodity.

Agricultural water standards and raw manure rules also drew attention.

“The FDA has clearly said that raw manure is a significant hazard but hasn’t really given any guidelines for what is in bounds and what is out of bounds with regard to addressing the hazard,” Gorny said. “How will that process move forward with regard to a more clear definition of codifying what will be in the rule in the future in regard to raw manure?”

Assar urged growers to pay attention to existing recommendations about soil amendments and raw manure, but he said research is needed to develop a qualitative standard for the future.

“We are thinking five years from now, hopefully, we will be in a position to reopen the guidance that will lay out our thinking at that time, on appropriate quantitative standards.”