On-farm visits helpful

In the kind of outreach that should happen more often, senior staff with the Food and Drug Administration toured two produce farms Aug. 5.

The outing to Delaware farms by FDA officials was co-hosted by officials with the Produce Marketing Association and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Along with several other senior staff, the agency's new deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, Stephen Ostroff, participated in the tour. Ostroff took over as FDA's top food regulator on June 1.

Jim Gorny, PMA vice president of food safety and technology, said the visits gave produce growers the chance to talk directly to FDA leadership about the challenges they face in food safety compliance.

In particular, Gorny said several industry members questioned how third-party audits and FDA inspections will work together in coming years.

Grower-shippers want to get credit for all the food safety work they have done on the farm and in the packinghouse.

They want less third-party audit fatigue.

Growers are wondering if third-party audits - such as U.S. Department of Agriculture good agricultural practice audits and private third-party audits - will reduce the need for FDA regulatory inspections.

That issue was not settled with the outing. But it did give FDA officials an on-farm context to the concerns of produce growers across the U.S. about the regulatory burden they face with food safety regulations.

We hope more of these real-world conversations are part of the process FDA uses to determine guidance and industry responsibilities and FDA enforcement of the produce safety rule.

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