There was no substantial degree of finality when President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act on Jan. 4.
And that’s a good thing.
Obama’s pen may have made the long sought food safety reform into law, but many questions remain to be answered.
Republicans don’t want to spend another $1.4 billion on the FDA in the next five years, not with a trillion dollar-plus federal deficit at the top of their election talking points.
Creating produce regulation while at the same time complying with the Tester amendment, which exempts some small operations from the bill’s requirements, won’t be easy.
There also is a question about how the Tester amendment will apply to small growers in other countries.
Creating food safety exemptions for low-tech growers from third-world countries isn’t what the public wants and is a serious consequence of exempting anyone while ignoring science.
One question is how quickly the FDA will progress on produce safety regulations, which should take place within the next year.
The agency is already hard at work developing science-based minimum standards for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables.
The produce industry asked for food safety reform in light of the 2006 spinach and 2008 tomato/pepper outbreaks, and it got such a law.
Now comes the hard part — where dollars are involved.
Industry engagement with the agency is needed more than ever to secure risk-based regulations that will do more good than harm.
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