● Last Friday the Food and Drug Administration rolled out two more of its proposed rules implementing FSMA, the Food Safety and Modernization Act. They deal mainly with food imports. Two new acronyms will join the bureaucratic food safety lexicon: VQIP (Voluntary Qualified Importer Program) and FSVP (Foreign Supplier Verification Program).
● Over the last two months members of Congress have been alerting FDA to the problems many orchardists and others fear from the FDA’s proposed FSMA rules.
This activity has taken many forms: 1) a colloquy about the intent for FSMA to be crop specific held between Congressman Hastings (R/Washington) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R/Oklahoma) during floor debate on the Farm Bill; 2) an amendment accepted to the House’s version of the Farm Bill calling for an economic study before FSMA enforcement by FDA; 3) a meeting in the Capitol Hill office of Congressman Walden (R/Oregon) with several other members and top FDA officials; and 4) a failed effort in the Senate by Senator Crapo (R/Idaho) and Senator Risch (R/Idaho) that would have repealed FDA’s oversight of produce farmers.
● FDA is scrambling to show that it’s open to hearing from those in the countryside. One example is a just-announced trip to the Pacific Northwest by Mike Taylor, the top food official at FDA in Washington, D.C. A public “Listening Session” on FSMA is planned for August 12, in Ontario, Oregon. Another session will be held two days later in Yakima.
● On another food safety front, FDA’s proposed rule on allowable levels of arsenic in apple juice (10 parts per billion) seems to have not ignited any public outcry and probably will be something our Pacific Northwest apple industry can live with.
The scientific underpinnings for the selected low level are shaky, but this was a high-profile cause issue for some advocacy groups. One with a potentially volatile media mix of apples, consumption by children, and a scary sounding substance.