● Last Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its anticipated revisions to four proposed rules implementing the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), with comments due by December 15. Our growers will be especially interested in changes to the FSMA rules for determining the safety of agricultural water. FDA claims they have made these rules more flexible and practical than its initial set of proposals. We shall see. Part of the difficulty in making a quick assessment is the length of the proposed revisions, some 152 pages for just the one rule entitled “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.” Under this snappy title is contained such deadening prose as “[…] you are a ‘covered farm’ subject to this part, and that if you are a ‘covered farm’ subject to this part, you must comply with all applicable requirements of this part when you conduct a covered activity on ‘covered produce.'”
● It looks like former executives of the Peanut Corporation of America are headed to the slammer. A jury last week convicted the company’s top executive and others, among other things, for faking results of food safety tests. This criminal case in Georgia arose out of a 2008 multi-state incident that left hundreds sick from eating tainted peanut butter. The egregious conduct by Peanut Corporation of America helped spark passage of FSMA.
● On another food safety legal front, the United States Court of Federal Claims on September 18 dismissed a claim made by Florida tomato producers that they were owed money due to FDA wrongly warning the public in 2008 to avoid certain tomatoes. The basic ruling is that governmental press releases and consumer advisories, by themselves, do not constitute a regulatory taking. I think the Florida producers took a long-shot on a regularity claim suit, instead of a more conventional tort action, because current case law was stacked against them for ever recovering in a negligence action against FDA.
● A threesome of top officials of the Produce Marketing Association visited Washington state, including the office of the Northwest Horticultural Council, last week: Bryan Silbermann, Cathy Burns, and John Oxford. Mr. Oxford is PMA’s treasurer, but also the president of L&M Companies, which is headquartered in North Carolina and has a sales office in Union Gap. I serve with his wife, Lee Anne Oxford, on United’s Government Relations Council. Mr. Silbermann, the long-time leader of PMA, took the opportunity of this trip to introduce Cathy Burns to our part of the nation’s produce industry. Ms. Burns is a former grocery-store chain executive, originally from Maine, who is now president of PMA. It is my guess that Cathy Burns, who is personable and talented, will be the next leader of PMA, whenever Mr. Silbermann should choose to retire.
● Next Tuesday will be the last day at work for Lois Rossi. Ms. Rossi has been a good friend of the nation’s minor crop producers during her career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She retires as the director of the Registration Division of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs.