ND Food Producers and Processors Comment on Challenges of Food Safety Modernization Act

FARGO – Farmers, food processors and government officials met in Fargo and Carrington last week to discuss the impact of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), federal regulations intended to reduce the risk of unsafe food.

Individuals are invited to submit comment to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on two recently-proposed FSMA regulations prior to May 16, 2013.

“Food safety is a paramount concern for farmers, processors and consumers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “There are, however, justifiable doubts about the effectiveness of, the need for and the costs of these new regulations. These meetings provided farmers and processors with information they need to implement the regulations and to provide comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on how the rules can be improved.”

Enacted by Congress two years ago, FSMA gave FDA new authority to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested and processed, including mandatory recall authority. FDA subsequently proposed two regulations to continue implementing the FSMA which places increased responsibility on farmers and food processors to prevent food contamination. FDA is currently seeking public comment on both of the recently-proposed rules

The first regulation - Proposed Rule for Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food - will require all food processors that were not previously subject to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) to prepare and implement  a food safety plan and document its implementation.

For farmers who are producing for the fresh or raw consumer market, FSMA will add requirements under the second regulation - Proposed Rule for Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. This proposed rule will require food safety documentation including: review of water used, including irrigation water; employee training by a qualified supervisor; application of animal waste in fields; and sanitization of equipment with direct contact to food. Additionally if wild animals have left waste in a field, the farmer must evaluate whether the crop can be harvested

Some producers and processors are concerned that the proposed regulations are not in line with industry requirements.

“Our company is and has been very diligent and proactive with procedures for preventing contamination. This has always been a strict requirement of both ourselves and our customers,” said Robert Sinner, president of SB&B Foods, Inc. of Casselton.  “But, these regulations also seems to suggest that companies may need to take additional measures to protect against natural occurring contaminants - such as dirt. And of course, what will the costs associated with those changes be, if they can realistically be achieved?”

“HACCP is globally accepted as the gold standard for food safety. These regulations are an attempt to bring all food processing under HACCP standards,” said Travis Maddock, president of Dakota Global Food Solutions of Fargo. “However, the U.S. is already considered the most-diligent protector of food security in the modern world, so the motivation to change these rules is puzzling. The costs associated with the proposed rules don't seem to justify the protection they may offer.”

Producers and processors are encouraged to review and study the new regulations proposed by FSMA and determine how these rules will affect their individual operations.

“Now is the time for food processors and farmers to review the proposed regulations and offer comment to FDA to assure the regulations will be realistic and consistent with industry standards,” said David Saxowsky, associate professor of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University.

The meetings were sponsored by NDSU Food Safety, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Trade Office.

Those interested in reviewing the proposed regulations and submitting comment to FDA can do so by visiting

FDA Fact Sheet on Hazard Analysis at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm334115.htm and

FDA Fact Sheet on Produce Safety at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm334114.htm.

Companies interested in taking part in regional conversations about FSMA or learning more about the legislation can visit http://www.nd-fsma.com/.

Individuals can submit comments on the proposed regulations to FDA prior to May 16, 2013.