FDA’s Food Safety Priorities for 2017 and Beyond

Yesterday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a blog post entitled President’s FY 2017 Budget Request: Key Investments for Implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In it, the agency announced that President Obama’s 2017 budget includes specific requests of $11.3 million for a nationally integrated food safety system and $14 million for new import food safety systems.

Also significant, though, was the fact that the FDA used the same post to lay out four food safety priorities the agency has adopted for the implementation of FSMA. Two of the four priorities listed fall in areas where the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and our growers and shippers can be particularly helpful to FDA.

The first priority area that rings a bell with us is in the area of “guidance development, education and technical assistance for industry.” In other words, FDA is going to focus on getting the word out to growers about the new rules and, more important, providing training and education that will enable growers to comply with the new rules. This is also a very high priority for the LGMA – in recent years, we have greatly expanded our training capacity under our LGMATech program, and we are actively developing additional modules that will focus on the new Produce Rules under FSMA. We intend to work closely with FDA to develop training outreach to leafy greens growers throughout California and (working with the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement) in Arizona.

We have been actively involved in the Produce Safety Alliance since its inception, and we are looking to proactively work with FDA on delivering these important services to our growers. And, once we have the program in place, we would be more than willing to provide those services to growers of other commodities, and to growers of all sizes and scopes of production.

Another priority identified by FDA is “building state capacity to partner with FDA on FSMA Implementation.” This is also a topic that is near and dear to our hearts. The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement is, in fact, part of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Our own compliance program utilizes CDFA agricultural inspectors to audit leafy greens farms, and those auditors are trained and licensed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). In other words, a model already exists for what the FDA is looking to see created across the country – a model where government oversight ensures that farmers are implementing required foo safety practices, all in the interest of protecting public health.

Our message to FDA is therefore pretty simple – let us help. For nearly a decade the LGMA has been overseeing a government food safety program that is, in nearly all of its particulars, identical to the new rules created under FSMA. We are more than happy to utilize our experience and our programs to help establish a culture of food safety across the country, the way a food safety culture has been established in the leafy greens industry.

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