Note: This article was originally published Nov 13 2013.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA, pronounced “fis-ma”) was signed into law in 2011 and gives the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new and expansive authority to regulate most aspects of food production with the stated goal of reducing foodborne illness. We have created a web-page to help West Virginians understand how FSMA might affect their businesses. The FDA is currently accepting comments on the proposed draft rules until November 15th.
On November 10th, The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition sent our official comment to Michael Taylor, the Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the FDA. After consulting with policy experts and coalition members that include West Virginia farmers,we found that FSMA as currently drafted could have damaging effects on the success and economic viability of the small-but-growing West Virginia food businesses and beginning farmers.
Here is a list of our comments:
1.We ask FDA to publish a second round of draft rules that takes into account the realities of small farm sustainable agriculture, helps preserve the natural resources of Appalachia, and reflects a science-based approach to food safety.
2.We ask that FDA work to differentiate between foodborne illness originating on the farm and that originating at later food processing stages, so as to better target prevention and enforcement and ensure that costs are borne in relation to the presence of risk factors. We further ask that FDA take a risk-based regulatory approach and apply rules only to produce that is high-risk or has been associated with a severe outbreak in the past.
3.In determining whether a farm’s sales are large enough to qualify the operation to be covered by the Produce Rule, we ask that FDA consider only that farm’s sales of covered produce, instead of considering the farm’s total sales. We further ask that FDA use only sales of covered produce in considering a farm or farm mixed-type operation for an exemption.
4.In light of the fact that there has never been a major foodborne illness outbreak associated with agricultural water in West Virginia, we ask that FDA take a science-based regulatory approach to agricultural water.
5.We ask that FDA work with USDA and other agencies and require only water quality testing methods that are scientifically proven to identify proven health risk factors in agricultural water.
6.We ask that FDA recognize the necessity of manure and compost to sustainable farming, and adopt requirements that are no more stringent than those of the National Organic Program, including a waiting period of not more than four months between application and harvest.
7.We ask that FDA allow farmers to assess and control risk factors for contamination from domestic and wild animals in a manner specific to their individual farms, rather than within guidelines that may not be scale-appropriate. We further ask that FDA recognize the important role that animals play on farms, and refrain from placing restrictions on the use of farm animals for work and fertility. We further ask that FDA recognize the importance of wildlife habitat on farmland and the contribution that farmers make to maintaining the ecology of Appalachia.
8.We ask that FDA revisit the requirements and, as outlined above, and in any other ways possible, lessen the financial burdens they will place on producers and distributors at all levels. We urge FDA to preserve food safety without placing undue costs on our food system.
Here is a link to our full letter to Michael Taylor at FDA.