Time is running out to comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act

The deadline for comment on the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule is fast approaching. Comments will not be accepted after November 15. Here’s how to comment effectively and best advocate for changes in the proposed rule.

Time is running out to influence the most significant piece of food safety regulation in nearly 70 years. For the first time in our nation’s history, the growing of fresh produce will be regulated under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These regulations intend to improve the safety of fresh produce that is sold in the United States. Currently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking comments on the proposed regulation. The comment period ends on Nov. 15, 2013, so time is of the essence.

There are a number of things to keep in mind when making comments on the rule in order to make them more effective. First, it is helpful to reference the section of the rule you have particular issues with. The regulation is broken up into individual chunks and labeled to easily reference a particular section. Referencing these sections reduces the confusion on what aspects of the rule you have an issue with. In addition, it frames the discussion and can improve the credibility of the comments.

Another component of an effective comment is being specific about the issue you are presenting. Disparaging the institution or the rule in total generally is ineffective in changing the content of the rule, despite possibly improving a commenter’s mood. By making specific comments about proposed produce safety practices, there is a greater likelihood that the content or scope of the rule will change in the commenter’s favor.

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 growers feel are untenable, it is important to share ideas that provide similar outcomes that would be tenable.

These rules will become law and all growers, irrespective of size, will need to make at least some changes as a result 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 Nov. 16 is too late.

You can submit comments electronically. Comments can also 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

Read more about the rule or if you would like to comment on the proposed rule.

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

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