FDA is seeking eight experts with backgrounds in science and policy to build the Produce Safety Network supporting the implementation of the produce safety rule that became final last November, part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The experts will work in different regions of the country with state public health and agriculture agencies. State officials will be working closely with the farmers who must comply with the new safety regulations. The new consumer safety officers will support those officials with education, outreach and technical assistance.

The network is meant to provide assistance to people directly impacted by the produce rule. “Right now, most of our policy experts are in Washington, but that’s not where the farms are,” says Michael Mahovic, acting chief of the Fresh Produce Branch in FDA’s Division of Produce Safety.

FDA says this is the first wave of new hires planned this year by the network to support compliance with the rule. An additional 40 new consumer safety officers will be hired later this year for domestic and international work that includes inspections, investigations and technical assistance.

The produce rule establishes science-based standards for the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables. It presents unique challenges, including recognizing regional differences in growing practices. Having regionally based network staff will provide greater opportunities to develop relationships with states and other partners in their regions, FDA says.

More information is available here.