Posted August 15, 2013
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials recently met with farmers in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to listen to concerns about upcoming water quality regulations required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA).  The meeting was part of a larger effort by the FDA to reach out to growers, hear concerns, and explain the implementation of the FSMA. 

A Food Safety News article on FDA’s outreach efforts is available here.  For detailed information on the Food Modernization Act, visit the National Agricultural Law Center website here.  For information on a recent extension of the comment period for two proposed rules, a recent post on this blog is available here.

According to Capital Press, FDA officials visited farms, packing sheds and irrigations systems in these states “to get a first-hand look at how their proposed produce safety rule could impact farmers.”  The proposed rule applies to “any produce that could be consumed raw and affects agricultural water that could come in contact with that produce” and includes limits on bacteria levels.  The rule would require generic E. Coli “levels in irrigation water to be under 235 colony forming units per 100 milliliters for any single sample” and would “also require five consecutive samples to have a rolling geometric mean of under 126 units.” 

According to the article, farmers voiced concerns that FDA’s proposed standards for agricultural water quality “cannot be met and are impractical.”  Some said that that most Idaho waterways could not meet the proposed standard and argued that the proposed standard is identical to the standard for recreational water. 

Michael Taylor of FDA said that “the final rule will be different from what the agency has proposed but he didn’t speculate on what the changes would be.”  Taylor “and other FDA officials emphasized a provision in the rule that allows farmers to establish alternative standards or practices than those proposed if they can provide adequate scientific data or other information that shows they provide the same level of public health protection.” 
The Statesmen Journal reports that Derek Godwin, Mid-Valley regional administrator for the Oregon State University Extension service said many onion growers are concerned that the levels for purifying irrigation water are too rigid and will negatively affect their businesses.  Godwin also stated that “FDA is making a concerted effort to prevent food-safety problems instead of just reacting to them.”