New rules of the road from field to fork

Time is running out for farmers and others to comment on new FDA rules covering produce farms, food processors and importers of foreign food products. The shock waves from outbreaks of food-borne illnesses led Congress to enact the Food Safety Modernization Act. The FDA was charged with turning the law into regulations, and the comment period for the proposed rules ends November 15.

The rules are creating significant headaches for growers because it is very difficult to anticipate the huge variety of conditions that actually prevail in farms across the country. For buyers the law, and the rules coming from, it demonstrate a significant shift from a system that reacts to an outbreak of an illness to a system intended to prevent the problems in the first place. That idea makes a lot of sense, but as the FDA points out — it is not just relying on more of its own involvement, but active participation from the food industry.

For instance, it requires in some situations that food importers verify that their foreign suppliers have had food safety audits. In other situations, where importers sell to other food processors, they will be responsible for monitoring their customers as well. All this underscores the wider role supply managers are fulfilling as consumers, and therefore, governments are demanding accountability throughout supply chains.

Here’s Food Safety Modernization Actfor the proposed new food safety rules.

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