Good Fruit Grower

March 1

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Speak out The FDA needs to hear how proposed food safety rule will impact growers. by Melissa Hansen P roposed regulations to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act could bring dramatic changes to the growing, harvest, and packing of tree fruit. Although state, regional, and national trade groups are coordinating responses to the draft rule on behalf of the tree fruit industry, growers, too, should share their concerns, industry leaders say. In mid-January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released two draft proposals: ��� The Proposed Rule for Produce: Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, referred to as the Produce Safety Rule ��� The Proposed Rule on Produce Safety Standards and Preventive Controls for Human Food, also referred to as the Preventive Controls Rule for Food Facilities The two proposals are the cornerstone of FDA���s implementation of the food safety act signed into law in 2010. The agency plans to release other proposed rules this year, including one dealing with foreign suppliers and imported food. The Produce Safety Rule directly touches growers, proposing to regulate such things as agricultural water (irrigation, chemical sprays, overhead evaporative cooling), picking containers and bins, and even animal intrusion into fields and orchards. The main subparts of the rule include: ��� Equipment, tools, buildings, and sanitation ��� Biological soil amendments ��� Domesticated and wild animals ��� Worker health and hygiene ��� Agricultural water In the wild animal section, FDA states that the rule does not require farms to be fenced, but if evidence of animal intrusion is apparent, evaluation must be made whether the produce can be safely harvested. ���For example, if you see evidence of bird excreta on a head of lettuce, you would not be allowed to harvest it,��� stated the FDA fact sheet for the Produce Safety Rule. The most problematic area is the agricultural water section. FDA has identified agricultural water as a route of contamination. Thus, all agricultural water that comes in contact with produce (used in direct irrigation, chemical sprays, or evaporative cooling) must be sanitary. Testing of water, recordkeeping, and follow-up are required. If certain levels of generic Escherichia coli are exceeded, the grower must immediately discontinue use of that water source and take specified follow-up actions, such as making changes to the water system, retesting or treating the water. Grower comments There are plenty of areas in which growers should share their concerns and perspectives, says Christian Schlect, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council. Moreover, it���s never been easier for growers to comment on the proposals. ���Individual growers affected by the rule should feel comfortable in going to the Federal Register Web site to make comments,��� said Schlect, who represents Idaho, Oregon, and Washington tree fruit growers and shippers in federal issues and is based in Yakima, Washington. ���It���s extremely easy and painless���you don���t have to write a formal letter and worry about addresses. It���s as easy as typing in a box on the Web site.��� He encourages growers to read the Produce Safety Rule or have someone in the family or company read it and then share their views with FDA on what it will cost growers to implement, how it will change existing practices, or any specific issues pertaining to a grower���s particular situation. 14 MARCH 1, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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