New Food Safety Rules Still Being Developed
Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010, the Food
and Drug Administration is still in the process of developing rules
to enforce the law. The rules seek to enhance safety regulations by
requiring more documentation and shifting the focus to prevention
rather than response.
with these new rules could be especially challenging for farmers and
other food producers with limited financial resources, said LSU AgCenter extension food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari.
Proposed FSMA rules touch every aspect of agriculture operations,
including water and biological soil amendment quality, workers'
hygiene, wild animal control and equipment storage. Adhikari, who joined the AgCenter
in February, is developing food safety educational outreach programs
that will help producers implement food safety practices and satisfy
updated requirements. Meeting and maintaining the level of water
quality proposed by FSMA will be an important issue in Louisiana, he
FSMA rule states if E. coli is detectable in surface water, growers
are prohibited from using that water during or after harvest of
produce that is consumed raw. E. coli can be used as an indicator of
pathogens that are difficult to test for, Adhikari
said. Testing for E. coli, however, is time-consuming and expensive. Adhikari said if a farmer suspects
runoff is contaminating surface water, he or she must test that water
every seven days. Still, producers can never have total control over
their water supply. "In Louisiana, we have a lot of rain," Adhikari said. "Because of the rain, the
water will carry contaminants from the soil to the surface water. In
such occasions, alternatives can be taken, including changing the
irrigation system or treating the water." FSMA also
permits producers to treat their water, but the FDA has not yet
specified approved treatments.
The law will
also affect the way some producers use their land. Raw manure is the
main source of several pathogens. If a grower uses raw manure for
soil enrichment, he or she must wait nine months after application to
harvest the food crop. This is problematic in Louisiana, Adhikari said, where it is common for farmers to
pasture animals in areas where they grow crops such as pecans. It
also means producers must take extra precautions against wild animals
- if they come in contact with food crops, the producer cannot
legally harvest it.
The AgCenter is assembling a food safety task force
of experts from various departments that will develop programs for
growers. One goal they have is to identify alternative, science-based
treatments and practices that reach FSMA-mandated levels of
protection but are more appropriate for Louisiana. Making sure
producers understand and comply with FSMA rules is crucial, said Gina
E. Eubanks, LSU AgCenter associate
vice chancellor and program leader for nutrition and food
long run, no farmer wants to produce unsafe food," Eubanks said.
"Sometimes, that costs. It may be an extra step that you have to
do when you're processing, or you would have to not use a certain