Dems to FDA: Help small farmers comply with new food safety rules

By:  Lydia Wheeler
The Hill

Congressional Democrats want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help small farmers comply new food safety laws due out in spring 2016.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), along with 12 other lawmakers, sent a letter to the FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff on Monday asking that he implement technical assistance and training programs geared toward helping small farmers, small producers, and fruit and vegetable wholesale merchants follow the new rules required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Lawmakers say they are most concerned about the new preventive controls for human food at factories and warehouses and what will be a first-ever nationwide standard for produce safety.

The rules aim to keep the nation’s food supply protected from foodborne pathogens that cause illness outbreaks.

“Small farmers will need time, training, and relationships with regulators in order to effectively navigate new guidelines. Further, many small farms are diverse and have multiple profit centers—from produce, to value-added products, to dairy, to bakeries, and more,” the lawmakers said in their letter. “While we understand the preventive controls rule is still being developed, we feel strongly that the final rule provide clarity on what qualifies as a “facility” and what farmers must do to ensure compliance.”

In addition to Murphy and DeLauro, the letter was signed by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

“With the passage of the FSMA, Congress took a major step forward in shifting the focus of food safety from response to prevention,” they said. “But confusion and misinformation is already circulating, and establishing lines of communication to farmers or to organizations that partner with farmers about implementation deadlines, training opportunities, and future technical assistance is critical to timely and accurate compliance.”