Constructively commenting on the revised FSMA water rule

Growers can comment on revisions to the proposed produce safety water rule, Subpart E of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. Learn how to comment effectively and make sure industry’s voice is heard in the proposed rule.

Cabbage with water droplets on it.

With the release of the proposed produce safety water rule (Subpart E) under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has tried to address some major concerns with the original water regulation. Grower comments and interactions with industry helped the FDA make the changes in this revision of Subpart E. They are asking fresh market produce growers and others for comment on these changes. The comment period ends April 5, 2022, so act now.

Keep a few things in mind when you make comments on the rule to make them more effective. First, reference the section of the rule you have issues with. The regulation is broken up into individual chunks and labeled to easily find a particular section. These chunk labels (called provision numbers) look something like this: §112.41.

Using these provision numbers reduces the confusion on what parts of the rule you have concerns with. It also frames the discussion and can improve the credibility of your comments. Keep in mind that the only parts of the rule open for comment is Subpart E. If the regulation you want to comment on wasn’t part of Subpart E, it isn’t up for comment.

Another component of an effective comment is being specific about the issue you are presenting. Disparaging the FDA, the government or the whole law generally is ineffective in changing the content of the rule, despite possibly making you feel better. By making specific comments about proposed produce safety practices, you have a better chance of making a change that can keep food safe without being too hard to achieve. At the ends of each section, the FDA outlines the information they need guidance on from you, the commentator. Use these statements to provide structure to your own comments.

Finally, offering alternatives is an important way to create the most effective rule. As much as it is important to state the food safety recommendations that you feel you can’t achieve, it is important to share ideas that you think you can do.

These rules will become law and all growers, no matter how big, will need to make at least some changes because of them. Taking the time now to become familiar with what is being proposed and commenting when necessary is the only way to shape the process. Waiting until April 5 is too late.

Comments can be written and faxed to the FDA at 301-827-6870 or mailed to:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

To read more about the rule or if you would like to comment on the proposed rule, you may do so at FSMA Proposed Rule on Agricultural Water.

If you have specific questions about the produce rule or have difficulty tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact Michigan State University Extension’s Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu or 517-788-4292.

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