Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

December 20, 2013

Food safety rules revised

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration says it will revise sweeping new food safety rules proposed earlier this year after farmers complained the rules could hurt business.

Michael Taylor, FDA’s commissioner for foods, said the agency wants to make sure the rules are practical for farmers who have to abide by them. The rules proposed in January would require farmers to take new precautions against contamination, making sure workers’ hands are washed, irrigation water is clean and that animals stay out of fields, among other precautions. Food manufacturers would also have to submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean.

Those changes would in many cases require new equipment, paperwork and record keeping.

Taylor said the agency’s thinking has evolved after talking to farmers.

“Because of the input we received from farmers and the concerns they expressed about the impact of these rules on their lives and livelihood, we realized that significant changes must be made, while ensuring that the proposed rules remain consistent with our food safety goals,” Taylor said in a blog post on the FDA website.

The rules would mark the first time the FDA would have real authority to regulate food on farms, and the FDA said when it proposed the rules that they could cost large farms $30,000 a year.

Many of the concerns the FDA heard from farmers were about new regulations for testing irrigation water, Taylor said. Organic farmers have also been wary of standards for using raw manure and compost.

The rules are already somewhat tailored to make the changes easier on farmers. They would apply only to certain fruits and vegetables that pose the greatest risk, like berries, melons, leafy greens and other foods that are usually eaten raw.

In addition to regulating farms and food manufacturing facilities, the food safety law authorized more inspections by the FDA and gave the agency additional powers to shut down food facilities. The law also required stricter standards on imported foods.

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