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Southeast Fruit & Vegetable Conference Digs Into New Food Safety Rules


By: Doug Ohlemeier,
1/14/2013 10:56:07 AM


A week after the Food and Drug Administration released proposed food safety rules for fresh produce, growers at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference heard about the importance of telling the FDA about potential concerns.

The Food Safety Modernization Act joined other explosive issues of immigration reform and Obamacare at the Jan. 10-13 convention.

On Jan. 11, David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, gave growers an overview on what the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption rules do and do not cover.

He said the proposed rules cover fields and facilities involved in domestic and imported raw agricultural commodities and is actually less proscriptive than the audits growers experience.

"The harmonized standards have more provisions in their requirements than this proposal does," Gombas said. "But this is consistent with all the major things you have to do in an audit anyway. If you pass an audit today, except for the testing provisions which are new, you'll likely be in compliance with what they're (FDA) proposing."

Gombas urged growers to work with trade associations and file unified comments during the 120-day public comment period.

"I strongly advocate for you folks to think about how this affects you and if they (the FDA) got it right," Gombas said. "Everyone has the right to comment but don't just go up and say 'this sucks.'

"Everybody's comments matter, but if you get together as a group and submit comments, it will have a lot more strength with the FDA," he said.

Gombas said United Fresh plans to solicit comments from the industry through meetings across the country.

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia growers association, said the show drew record attendance of 3,000, up 20% from last year's 2,700.


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