United Fresh Voices Concern for Small Farm Exemptions

United Fresh members and staff are participating in the first public hearings organized by FDA to hear feedback on the draft Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In Thursday’s  Washington, D.C. hearing, which focused on the proposed Produce Rule, Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president, food safety and technology, raised concerns about the proposed exemption of smaller farms.

“It potentially allows certain small operations to side-step food safety practices and provide consumers who buy directly from them a lesser level of food safety assurance than those who buy from conventional markets,” says Gombas. “After all, pathogens don’t know what size operation they’re on.”

Additionally, Gombas warned that FDA’s yet unpublished rules, including a rule for foreign supplier verification, represent a “suite of interlocking regulations” that could have significant impact on several aspects of the draft Produce Rule. “We hope that all stakeholders will be allowed the time to review and comment on all of these rules together,” Gombas adds.

In remarks starting the hearing, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg thanked the produce industry, consumer advocates and other stakeholders for participating in the draft rule review process, saying, “We can protect the safety of the food supply and economic vigor of the food industry if everyone works together.”

Dr. Hamburg underscored the FSMA requirement to improve food safety standards for imported produce as well, recognizing the increasingly global nature of our food supply.

“It’s going to take years to transform the safety of the global food supply, but I think it’s worth it,” adds Mike Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

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