WVFFC response to FSMA developments

December 17, 2014   Tags:

In November of 2013 the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition weighed in on the impacts that the Food & Drug Administration’s proposed “Produce Rule” would have on West Virginia farms. The Produce Rule is part of the “Food Safety Modernization Act,” or FSMA; a sweeping set of new regulations aimed at improving the safety of America’s food supply with regard to foodborne illness. Many of the requirements of the proposed rule would place a major burdens on Appalachian farms, particularly those practicing sustainable and organic techniques.

In an effort to give farmers a voice, the Coalition submitted four pages of comments to FDA back in November asking them to revisit the requirements and make several changes. Recently, the FDA announced that it did indeed make several changes to the proposed rules, including on many of the points we raised last year. In our original comments to FDA, the Food & Farm Coalition asked FDA to issue a completely new set of rules that better takes into account the realities of small farm and sustainable agriculture (you can read the comments here).

We’re now nearing the end of a second public comment period, following a first public comment period that received tens of thousands of comments and resulted in FDA’s commitment to re-propose the Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule.

Let’s keep our voices heard to ensure enough public input to shape an outcome that’s truly supportive of our small, family farms in West Virginia! Click here to comment on the Produce Rule by December 15, 2014.

What’s FSMA and why does it matter?

The following is from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, of which WVFFC– and therefore you– are a member!

Everyone has a role in ensuring safe food from field to fork. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the first major overhaul of our nation’s food safety practices since 1938, and it includes new regulations for farms that grow fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) and for facilities that process food for people to eat. This means it represents some big changes to our food system – and it is extremely important for the Food and Drug Administration to get these regulations right so that they improve food safety without placing an unfair burden on family farms.

FSMA gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new powers to prevent food safety problems, detect and respond to food safety issues, and improve the safety of imported foods. To do so, FSMA authorizes new regulations for farmers who grow certain kinds of fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) and for certain facilities that process food for people to eat. The regulations focus on addressing food safety risks from microbial pathogen contamination (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Shigella).

FSMA does not address food safety risks from genetically engineered crops, pesticide use, or antibiotic resistance. Specifically, FSMA requires FDA to establish new regulations for:
· Standards for produce production (Produce Rule), and
· Food safety measures for facilities that process food for human consumption (Preventive Controls Rule).

With the right approach, we will be able to help ensure good food safety practices without placing an unfair burden on family farmers. For a safe and sustainable future, FSMA must allow farmers to use sustainable farming practices, allow local food and farms to grow and thrive, and treat family farms fairly!

FDA is currently in the rulemaking stage – turning the FSMA bill passed by Congress in 2010 into actual rules and regulations that will affect farmers, food businesses, and everyone who eats food. But the rules are not yet final, and not yet being implemented on the ground on farms and businesses – meaning now is our chance to weigh in with FDA! Done right, these new rules can help make our food safer; done wrong, they run the risk of putting farmers out of business, limit consumer choice, and increase the use of chemicals rather than natural fertilizers, among other problems.

But before the rules are finalized, FDA NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU! In large part due to small farmers’ and food advocates’ comments last year, FDA announced that it would reexamine several critical areas of the FSMA proposed rules that have major potential impacts for sustainable farming, as covered in the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule.