In response to public comment, FDA has revised four proposed rules to help prevent foodborne illness that, when finalized, will implement portions of FSMA, the government agency announced this month.

FDA has proposed seven rules to implement FSMA since it was signed into law in 2011. The four updated proposed rules include: produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food and the foreign supplier verification program.

“Ensuring a safe and high-quality food supply is one of the FDA’s highest priorities, and we have worked very hard to gather and respond to comments from farmers and other stakeholders regarding the major proposed FSMA regulations,” says Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner. “The FDA believes these updated proposed rules will lead to a modern, science-based food safety system that will better protect American consumers from potentially hazardous food. We look forward to public comment on these proposals.”

FDA says it received thousands of comments on the proposed rules from farmers and those directly affected, and it based the new changes on this input. Because of these comments, the government agency says the rules are more flexible, practical and targeted.

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is pleased with FDA’s second opportunity to seek industry comment on the proposals.

“We’re eager to review and assess them to assure that when these regulations are finalized and implemented, they will best serve public health and our industry’s food safety needs,” says Bob Whitaker, PMA’s chief science and technology officer.

Based on feedback from its members,  PMA says FSMA is a priority for the association. Industry members will have a chance to learn about and discuss the supplemental proposals during an education session at the 2014 Fresh Summit on Oct. 17 in Anaheim, CA.

“It’s one thing to come to Fresh Summit and market our advantages against competitors, but when it comes to food safety, we’re all allies,” says Courtney Parker, PMA senior vice president of salad quality and global food safety and a member of the PMA science and technology committee. “Each of us only stands to benefit from a safer supply chain.”

Jim Gorny, PMA’s vice president of food safety and technology, says the proposed FSMA rules will have profound business implications on all aspects of the global supply chain.

FDA isn’t holding back in the fight against foodborne illness. Recently, the government agency issued a challenge to food safety experts and innovators by offering a prize for technological breakthroughs on how to detect disease-causing organisms in food—especially Salmonella in fresh produce.

The 2014 Food Safety Challenge was developed under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. This challenge offers a total prize pool of $500,000.

Submitted concepts must specifically address the detection of Salmonella in minimally processed fresh produce, but FDA says it also encourages ideas that address testing for additional microbial pathogens in other foods.

“We are thrilled to announce the FDA’s first incentive prize competition under the America COMPETES Act,” says Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “This is an exciting opportunity for the federal government to collaborate with outside experts to bring forth breakthrough ideas and technologies that can help ensure quicker detection of problems in our food supply and help prevent foodborne illnesses.”

FDA proposed changes

Among the proposed FDA changes is a new definition of which farms would be subject to the produce-safety rule; it would not apply to farms with $25,000 or less in produce sales.

FDA also addressed the concern over the use of spent grains for animal food. Commenters took issue that the proposed rules would require brewers and distillers to comply with the full human food and animal food rules if they made their wet spent grains available for animal feed. The updated proposed rule clarifies the compliance procedure.

“Based on valuable input from farmers, consumers, the food industry and academic experts, the FDA is proposing to update these proposed rules to ensure a more flexible and targeted means to ensure food safety,” says Taylor.

Other proposed changes include:

Produce safety: More flexible criteria for determining the safety of agricultural water for certain uses and a tiered approach to water testing.

Produce safety: A commitment to conduct extensive research on the safe use of raw manure in growing areas and complete a risk assessment. Pending these actions, FDA is deferring its decision on an appropriate time interval between the application of raw manure and the harvesting of a crop and removing the nine-month interval originally proposed. FDA also proposes eliminating the 45-day minimum application interval for composted manure that meets proposed microbial standards and application requirements.

Foreign supplier verification program: A more comprehensive analysis of potential risks associated with foods and foreign suppliers, and more flexibility for importers in determining appropriate supplier verification measures based on their evaluation of those risks.

Comments on the proposed revisions will be accepted for 75 days.

More information can be found here