A bi-partisan letter signed by 75 members of Congress and sent to Food and Drug Administration officials requests the agency submit a second set of proposed food safety rules for public comment before they are finalized.
The public comment period for the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rules governing the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fresh produce ended Nov. 22.
“After hearing many reservations from our farmers and businesses, we are concerned that the rules as currently proposed, and the heavy cost of complying with them, will force some producers and processors to shutter their operations,” the Nov. 25 letter states.
The fact that the letter was signed by so many members of Congress from both parties and both chambers is a strong statement to the FDA, said Lindsay Nothern, communications director for Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. “It is a fairly powerful letter.”
Nothern said it would be accurate to call the letter, which was signed by 42 Republicans and 33 Democrats or independents, a shot across the bow on the issue.
“We’re saying, ‘The rules you have come up with won’t cut it, will damage a lot of folks needlessly and you need to change them,’” he said. “‘If you won’t fix it, then we’re going to have to consider a legislative fix….’”
FDA’s 1,200 pages of proposed rules address food safety controls for the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce for human consumption. They have come under fire from an increasing number of farmers and industry groups that say they aren’t practical and too costly.
Farmers are particularly concerned about a weekly testing requirement for all agricultural water. If coliform bacteria levels exceed a certain standard, producers must stop using the water.
“We believe the rules as currently proposed would result in a multitude of unintended consequences that would be severely detrimental to national, regional and local agriculture,” the letter states.
By having a second public comment period, “we believe that producers’ concerns can be addressed and unintended consequences can be greatly mitigated,” it adds.
Crapo and other lawmakers are trying to address the FDA’s proposed rules through the farm bill currently being negotiated in conference committee. Nothern said the letter helps demonstrate to other congressmen who might not be aware of the situation why it’s important to change the rules.
“We want to show both FDA and other members of Congress that a large, bi-partisan group of senators and representatives from both parties has a real concern about these regulations,” he said.