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FDA releases commodity-specific safety rules for melons, tomatoes and leafy greens

By Tom Karst |

The Food and Drug Administration has released draft guidance for melons, tomatoes and leafy greens in a process that is expected to lead to more formal regulation of those commodities.

Top Obama administration officials promised earlier this summer that the commodity-specific guidance would be issued by the end of July, and notice of the guidance was published in the July 31 Federal Register.

Industry lobbyists said the draft guidance – offered with a 90-day comment period – is largely built on the work of industry efforts to define good agricultural practices.

“Our industry has worked hard since 2004 to develop commodity-specific guidance documents in each of these areas, and now strongly supports FDA taking these efforts to a new level,” said Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C. in a statement released July 31.

 “It is based on industry guidance and it incorporates the hard work the industry has done over the last few years,” said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association. However, Means said the agency guidance is less prescriptive about requiring metrics – measurable actions - than the California Leafy Greens Handlers Marketing Agreement and the tomato food safety standards that Florida tomato growers have put in place.

“The FDA folks said they recognize the values of those tools that can help FDA and public health understand the industry is validating the effectiveness of their processes,” she said. Means said the FDA may be open to greater use of science-based metrics in the future.

Beyond the final guidance that will be developed after comments are collected on the current draft guidance, Means said that FDA has indicated it will move toward regulations of melons, tomatoes and leafy greens within two years.

In addition, FDA has indicated it is also working on an initiative relating to traceability, Means said.


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