FDA to Make Food Safety Rules Farmer-Friendly
Jalonick, Mary Clare, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)
WASHINGTON - 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.
The food safety law was passed by Congress at the end of 2010, weeks before Republicans assumed control of the House. Since then, many GOP lawmakers have said the rules are too burdensome for farmers, and the House version of a five-year farm bill would delay some of the law. Some Democrats advocating for organic farmers have also been critical, saying small farms can't afford the new standards.
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. …