From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
At the beginning of the year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released long-awaited proposed federal food safety rules, which emphasize measures that farmers and produce packers should take to prevent the contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables. The rules also included preventive measure for the manufacturing of food products.
We all recognize the need to produce safe foods. We have seen too many times where through no fault of their own, many farmers across the country have suffered financial losses when a commodity they happen to produce is linked to a food recall, even when their product is not involved in the recall at all.
For example, if there is a spinach recall on the West Coast, the public becomes wary of all spinach – even spinach grown here.
The Food Safety Modernization Act and these rules represent a significant step forward in protecting the American public by focusing on prevention. Within agriculture and the farming community, we want to provide a safe product and work collaboratively with the FDA to address any food safety issues to better protect public health.
The announcement of these proposed rules now gives us an opportunity to weigh in and offer input, and growers, packers and consumers will have a chance to talk directly with FDA officials on Feb. 20 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Scott Building at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will host this meeting, and we expect Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner of foods, and Dr. James Gorny, FDA's senior advisor for produce safety, to attend and present information on these proposals. There will also be a question and answer time for attendees.
I strongly encourage everyone involved in the fresh produce business to attend this meeting. It is important that farmers, packers and food manufacturers scrutinize the rules and take time to offer feedback. Input from the industry and the public will be essential to ensuring that FDA gets these rules right.
You can find information about the rules online at http://www.fda.gov/fsma.
Partnership and education will be critical as FDA moves forward with food safety rules.
We look forward to working with the FDA on a new approach to educate farmers about the rules. This will be done through the Produce Safety Alliance and through a pilot program that North Carolina and other states are developing with FDA to assist farmers in understanding the requirements of the new produce rule.
Please take the time to read this information and offer your suggestions.