Mike Taylor, FDA (Geraldine Warner/Good Fruit Grower)

Mike Taylor, FDA (Geraldine Warner/Good Fruit Grower)

Growers, you were heard. But what’s next?

The Food and Drug Administration announced  that it will revise proposed food safety rules that had drawn complaints from growers and others who said the rules would be unworkable and would hurt business.

Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for food, gave no details on the revisions but said in a blog post that changes were coming for a section dealing with water quality and testing, a topic of strong objections from a number of tree fruit growers in Washington State and elsewhere.  Taylor said  revisions would come by early summer, after which would come another period of public comment.

But for the areas where change is coming, Taylor claimed “broad support” for moving forward with the regulations established by the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Here’s how Taylor described the forthcoming revisions:

“…significant changes will be needed in key provisions of the two proposed rules affecting small and large farmers. These provisions include water quality standards and testing, standards for using raw manure and compost, certain provisions affecting mixed-use facilities, and procedures for withdrawing the qualified exemption for certain farms. We have heard the concern that these provisions, as proposed, would not fully achieve our goal of implementing the law in a way that improves public health protections while minimizing undue burden on farmers and other food producers.”

The food safety law passed in 2010 in an comprehensive response to food borne illnesses. The FDA has estimated the new rules would cost large farms on average $30,000, according to the Associated Press.

Taylor made a swing through farm country last August, including a stop in Yakima to meet with growers, packers and others in the industry. At the time, Taylor signaled that water was a likely area of revision. “We got the message we need further thinking about water,” Taylor said. (Go to Good Fruit Grower‘s report on that meeting.)

The new law triggered many questions, only a few of which could be answered in one meeting. Such as: What about the 7.4 million bins used in Washington State to handle apples and cherries? Can they still be washed out in the traditional way? The answer depends on if a bin classifies as a “food contact surface.”

Watch a video from Taylor’s visit to Yakima last August.

Latest chatter online about FDA’s Michael Taylor about food safety concerns.

Latest chatter online about FDA’s Michael Taylor about food safety concerns.