Yesterday, the California Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the City Council Chambers in Stockton. Western Growers’ Senior Vice President, Hank Giclas was an invited panelist and provided commentary on a few key issues that Western Growers continues to discuss with the FDA as it works to finalize the proposed rule.
The hearing was intended to solicit comments on the impact of the proposed “Produce Rule” on California ‘on-farm’ agricultural production, as well as to determine the need for any legislative action in California that might be necessary to assist the agricultural industry or implement the new rule.
Giclas emphasized that while every agricultural operation selling fresh fruits and vegetables for human consumption should have a strong food safety program geared towards preventing contamination in the field, this does not translate to a one-size-fits-all approach. He stated that individual operations need to identify and evaluate the hazards associated with its unique operation, commodity and setting. Preventative practices should then be implemented to then reduce any hazards. He also emphasized the need for a broadening of the rule’s provisions on “alternatives” and “variances” and greater flexibility and adaptability.
Almost every panelist spoke about the difficulty that would be associated with FDA’s proposed provisions for water. Giclas said the basic requirement in this section -- all agricultural water must be safe and of adequate sanitary quality for its intended use -- has been embedded in food safety guidance for over 20 years, but the struggle is how to demonstrate this. He noted, however, that the FDA’s metrics for water and the frequency of testing will not work in many agricultural settings.
Other invited panelists, included: Rick Jensen, Director, Inspection Services Division, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Scott Horsfall, CEO, California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement; Dr. Trevor Suslow, Extension Research Specialist, University of California, Davis; Dr. Michele Jay-Russell, Program Manager/Research Microbiologist, Western Center for Food Safety, University of California, Davis and representatives from California Farm Bureau Federation, Full Belly Farm, California Grape and Tree Fruit League and California Citrus Mutual.
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