FDA delays new food safety rules after farmers object

Farm Forum

Sweeping new federal food safety regulations proposed this year will be delayed by several months because of an outcry of concern by farmers, the Food and Drug Administration said on Dec 19.

In an agency blog post, Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, said rules addressing foodborne illness in production sites and farms included in the Food Safety Modernization Act will be revised and reviewed by early summer. A public comment period, which had ended in November, will be reopened.

“We have heard concerns that certain provisions, as proposed, would not fully achieve our goal of implementing the law in a way that improves public health protections while minimizing undue burden on farmers and other food producers,” Taylor said. “And 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.”

The proposed regulations have been criticized by proponents of local, organic and sustainable farming as being too invasive and unnatural. The rules call for stringent barriers to fence wildlife away from farms and scrutinized natural manure, which is favored by organic growers.

“In our efforts to get first-hand information about how these rules would work in the real world, we visited nearly 20 states, Europe and Mexico; toured small and large farms and met with farmers across the country; met with the Amish, organic producers and other groups deeply involved in farming; collaborated with officials from other federal and state public health agencies; and held many public meetings,” Taylor said. “We also met with coalitions of consumer groups and other stakeholders. Our outreach work has been focused on ensuring that we never took our eyes off the ultimate goal: Keeping the food that you and your family eat safe.”