See also: "FDA rolls out first rules on federal food safety law."
The costs to fruit and vegetable growers for complying with the newly proposed produce safety regulation have been estimated at more than $30,000 annually for large farms and about $13,000 per year for smaller farms.
Those figures come from the Food and Drug Administration’s cost-and-benefit analysis of the produce safety rule regulation, one of two proposed Food Safety Modernization Act components released Jan. 4.
The FDA estimates the new food safety regulations on growing and packing will prevent 1.75 million foodborne illnesses annually.
The proposed rule imposes new standards on growers for worker training and hygiene, agricultural water purity, biological soil amendments, equipment, tools and buildings. Exemptions to the proposed rule were carved out for produce commodities rarely consumed raw, produce used for personal or on-farm consumption, produce that receives a “kill step” to reduce the presence of microorganisms and farms with average annual sales of $25,000 or less.
Other growers with sales less than $500,000 (and who sell mostly to consumers or nearby retailers and restaurants) can qualify for exemption or fewer mandates — as outlined in the Tester Amendment.
The FDA calculates the benefit from reduced foodborne illnesses to be $1.04 billion. The FDA estimates the cost of the legislation to domestic farms at $460 million annually and $171 million a year for foreign farms. Net benefit was calculated to be $406 million annually.
Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said it is hard to predict foodborne illness outbreaks. He said one of the benefits of the regulation is greater consumer confidence in produce safety and less damage to the industry from recalls.
Taylor said FDA plans to collaborate with the produce industry, state agriculture departments and University Extension agents to educate growers on the new requirements and to provide technical assistance and training.
Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, said in a Jan. 4 news conference that the produce safety rule will allow small and large farms to organize themselves around one set of standards, rather than multiple standards from multiple buyers.
“Now there is going to be a uniform, agreed-upon approach that I think will both be driven by the best possible science and be agreed up and enforced at various levels, both local, state, industry and by FDA,” she said.