The Food and Drug Administration has more than 500 comments to consider after asking for public and industry input on preventive controls for produce safety.
The agency is developing safety standards for fresh produce at the farm and packinghouse and has asked for input on strategies and cooperative efforts to ensure compliance.
One industry leader said he was hopes the agency gains perspective on the relative food safety risk of various commodities.
âThere are a certain number of commodities that continue to have problems in our industry and the reality is that they are dragging down the entire industry as a result of these problems,â said Joel Nelsen, president of the Exeter, Calif.-based California Citrus Mutual. âThe faster you have a system in place that addresses the concerns and does the traceback necessary, the better off the entire industry is.â
The FDA shouldnât apply a set of burdensome protocols on each and every commodity, said Nelsen, who also submitted written comments to the agency, but should focus only those that have demonstrated greater food safety risks.
The agency announced earlier this year that work had already been started on a proposed rule for the safe production, harvesting and packing of fresh produce. There is no indication when work on the proposed rule will be finished, however. Nelsen said the FDA appears poised to push ahead with produce safety regulation whether or not Congress passes a food safety reform bill this year.
The FDAâs request for comments was published in February and the original comment period was set to end May 24. The agency, however, extended comment until July 23 to give more people a chance to give input.
The FDA sought to obtain information about current practices and conditions for the production and packing of fresh produce, in addition to insight regarding identification and ranking of risk factors, the effect of scale on food safety hazards and other topics.
The FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture also gathered comments during listening sessions on food safety in 13 states.