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New Food Safety Rules Have Broad Approach

New food safety rules could impact produce producers. Credit: Jerry Oster
New food safety rules could impact produce producers. Credit: Jerry Oster
November 23, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – It took five years of debate, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally has approved new food safety rules.

Late last week, the FDA set the official standards for the Food Safety Modernization Act, the first major reform in more than 70 years.

Sophia Kruszewski, a policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, says, overall, the act does right by food producers who choose not to use chemical fertilizers.

"We're pretty supportive of their significant change in their approach to the use of manure, compost that we think will make it a lot easier for farmers using sustainable and organic practices to continue to do that on their farm," she states.

The FDA says it's still researching any possible health effects from using raw manure, but for now the Food Safety Modernization Act won't prohibit farmers from using it.

Kruszewski praises that move, but she maintains other parts of the new rules, such as those concerning the water that's used to grow food, could pose problems down the line.

She explains that's because the FDA is using a clean water standard that is not tailored toward agriculture.

"Its assessment is based on the hazards posed by ingesting water while swimming or while boating, which vary significantly from the hazards posed by consuming produce that's had water used in its growing," she explains.

Kruszewski acknowledges that there are provisions in the Food Safety Modernization Act to work around the water rule, but it could make the transition difficult, especially for produce farms.

She says for them, this will be the first time they have to come into compliance with federal rules "for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce." And she says there's still a big question there.

"Requirements coming from the marketplace and requirements coming from the federal government,” she points out. “How are they going to be streamlined, so that farmers aren't having to deal with two sets of requirements?"

Kruszewski hopes that will be answered after the food safety rules are published in the Federal Register on Friday.

The rules will go into effect 60 days after that. Most U.S. farms will have two years to comply.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD