Hastings Pushes for Common Sense in Proposed Food Safety Regulations
“Growers of low-risk produce would be subject to requirements so stringent that in some cases, it could force them out of business,” wrote Hastings.Congressman Doc Hastings sent a letter last week to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg expressing concern over the food safety regulations that the FDA has proposed to govern the way that all fruits and vegetables are grown and harvested. Hastings has heard a number of concerns from Central Washington growers that these regulations are unworkable, unnecessary, and could force them out of business.
“Unfortunately, the one-size-fits all regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration fail to recognize this basic fact [that crops are grown, harvested, and processed in different ways] by imposing the same requirements and standards on growers of all products that may be consumed raw. This means that lettuce, which is known to be susceptible to food safety risks and grown in the ground, and fresh apples, which have never been a known source of a food safety outbreak in history and are grown on trees, would be regulated in the same way,” wrote Hastings in the letter. “The failure of these proposed regulations to take into account the methods of which different types of fruits and vegetables are grown, and the risk they pose to consumers, means that growers of low-risk produce would be subject to requirements so stringent that in some cases, it could force them out of business.”
In particular, Hastings stressed that the water quality standards and testing requirements are simply unachievable for tree fruit growers in the Pacific Northwest, where water is delivered through open ditch irrigation. Hastings also noted that these requirements are unnecessary.
“Apples, and other low-risk commodities like pears, cherries and mint that are subject to these new regulations under the proposed rule, have been safely delivered to consumers for decades – or in some case centuries – using existing growing practices,” wrote Hastings.
This letter follows a meeting that Hastings and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) held last week with FDA officials – including Deputy Commissioner Mike Taylor – to voice their concerns about the proposed regulations. Deputy Commissioner Taylor agreed to work to address the concerns of growers, and to provide additional opportunity for farmers to give input prior to the rule being finalized.
Hastings also spearheaded a House Northwest delegation letter earlier this month requesting the House Farm Bill Conferees keep requirements of a scientific and economic impact analysis of proposed food safety regulations in the final Farm Bill.
In June, Hastings and House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) called on the FDA to evaluate the risks of individual agricultural products based on the best available science and on how susceptible they may be to food safety risks.
A signed version of the letter to Commissioner Hamburg can be found here. The public comment period for the FDA’s proposed rule governing the “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption” closes on Friday, November 22nd.