IPR Submits Comments Critical of Proposed FDA Food Safety Rules; FDA Announces Major Reconsideration of those Rules

On behalf of our client, Future Harvest – A Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (Future Harvest CASA), IPR submitted comments to FDA in November 2013 in response to proposed food safety rules. The comments respond to two of the rules proposed in particular:

Future Harvest CASA, a network of farmers, agricultural professionals, landowners, and consumers who live and work in the Chesapeake Bay region, promotes profitable, environmentally sound, and socially responsible food and farming systems that work to sustain communities. Future Harvest CASA worked with IPR to develop responses to FDA’s proposed rules after discerning that those rules would—in the name of food safety—put an end to a number of farming and retail practices that are safe and sustainable.

Our comments highlighted for FDA some of the most important ways that the proposed rules would hurt sustainable farmers, yet fail to improve food safety. For instance, we pointed out that by including community supported agriculture programs (CSAs or farm-shares) in the definition of “retail food establishment” FDA had created a costly and irrational mismatch that would not improve the safety of food sold through farm-shares, but would nonetheless shut many farm-shares down. We also described how FDA’s proposed rules would impose a form of sterility on farms that not only would not protect consumers of sustainably-farmed produce from food-borne pathogens, but would also make the farms more susceptible to a variety of pathogens carried by pests.

In addition to pointing out that FDA’s proposed rules would not promote the safety of food produced and sold by sustainable farmers, our comments also highlighted that the rules generally pushed farmers away from sustainable practices. For our clients, their customers, and society more generally, this would amount to imposing costs with no expectation of a benefit—something FDA surely did not intend to do.

About one month after the comment period closed, FDA announced that it would undertake a thorough reexamination and revision of the rules it had proposed. The following excerpt from that announcement conveys the basic thrust of FDA’s decision (emphases added):

Based on our discussions with farmers, the research community and other input we have received, we have learned a great deal, and our thinking has evolved. Everyone shares the goal of ensuring produce safety, but, as we said at the beginning of the process, the new safety standards must be flexible enough to accommodate reasonably the great diversity of the produce sector, and they must be practical to implement. To achieve this goal, we believe that significant changes will be needed in key provisions of the two proposed rules affecting small and large farmers…. Because the changes to the key provisions would be significant, FDA plans to propose revised rule language and seek comment on it.

You can read IPR’s comments, submitted on behalf of Future Harvest CASA, here:

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