Everyone has a role in ensuring safe food from field to fork. The risk of foodborne illness is largely preventable by good food safety measures at every stage of the food system, including hand washing and keeping foods at the right temperature. However, it's not as simple as requiring all farms and processing facilities to meet identical safety requirements. Depending on the complexity of the supply chain, types of food, and practices implemented from farm to table, different kinds of farms and facilities face different types of risks when it comes to contamination that could cause illness.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted in early 2011, is the first major overhaul of our nation's food safety practices since 1938 (that's 73 years!!) Earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration released a 1200 page document proposing how the law is to be implemented, known as a "proposed rule." The FSMA represents some big changes to our food system – and it is extremely important for the Food and Drug Administration to get these regulations right.
Before FDA can finalize the proposed rules, the agency must seek input from the public.
Comments from farmers and on-farm processors will directly shape the final rules and are critical to ensuring that they work for small and mid-sized farmers, sustainable and organic growers, value-added businesses, and conservation systems.
If you're an eater, these rules could, over the long term, impact the kind of food you are able to find and purchase in your community. Ultimately, we want to ensure a safe and affordable food supply, strong on-farm conservation of natural resources, and thriving family farms and small value-added farm and food businesses. That translates into fresh, healthy food for communities across the country, from the farmers' market to the grocery store to the school cafeteria. As a concerned consumer, you absolutely have a say in these proposed rules and should speak out.
A big thanks to Farm Aid partner and grantee, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, for all the above information, and for putting together a fantastic website that breaks down the 1200 page proposed rule to help farmers, processors, and eaters learn more and get involved. We encourage you to check it out and follow their link for submitting a comment to the FDA.
Just this morning, we heard news that the comment period has been extended 120 days beyond May 16, the original deadline. This is a very positive development, giving us more time to get the word out and rally public input. With the right approach, we can ensure the final food safety rules foster good practices across the nation without placing an unfair burden on family farmers.