The updated food safety rules proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being criticized by many parties, especially small farmers. The rules, which are mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), have had their public comment period extended twice after technical issues prevented users from uploading comments to the Web site. The deadline now sits at January 27, 2014.
Some of those urging FDA to revise the rules say that new requirements will be too economically burdensome on small farming operations. There are some exemptions built into the rules for low-revenue farms, but critics say many farms that don’t qualify for these exemptions are small operations that will be hit hard. Some think new water testing requirements, for instance, will require investments that will cut too deeply into profits.
Another new rule that is drawing concern says that farmers may only harvest fields nine months after any raw manure is used as fertilizer. This is meant to prevent outbreaks of illnesses like E. coli, but many small organic farmers that use manure would be unable to harvest viable crops under this rule. There is also criticism of the way the rules define “food facilities.” Some interpret the costly requirements for food facilities as potentially applying to small farms or farmers markets.
Several related FDA rules share the same comment period, including one involving the accreditation of third-party auditors for food safety, and the “Produce Rule” required by FSMA, which establishes safety standards for commercial handlers of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2014 (online 11/27/13)