WOOSTER, Ohio -- A listening session is scheduled for April 30 to hear comments and concerns about the U.S Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) proposed new food safety rules for fresh produce.
The session will be 1 to 4 p.m. in the Shisler Conference Center on the Wooster campus of Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), 1680 Madison Ave. OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The program is being hosted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio State, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Farm Bureau.
"The FDA is coming here because they want to hear from Ohio's produce growers," said Ashley Kulhanek, agriculture and natural resource educator for OSU Extension. "They are encouraging comments. Because it's a proposed rule -- not final yet -- this is the opportunity to ask questions and make your concerns heard, because once it's final, it's done."
The event is free, but registration is requested. The registration form is online at the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Web page at http://bit.ly/FDAmtg
Many growers have questions about how the proposed rule will affect their operations, Kulhanek said, or if they can be exempt from the rules. "This is your chance to get clarification about the rule and how it will apply to you," she said. "The meeting will include two hours just for open conversation, questions and answers with the audience."
Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, is scheduled to attend the session and will be available for questions, Kulhanek said.
"Participants will have access to some top-level FDA administrators," Kulhanek said. "You can get information right from the source."
Representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Farm Bureau will also be in attendance.
The long-awaited proposed Produce Safety rule was published on Jan. 16. It is one of the measures the FDA has taken to comply with the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act. The proposed rule focuses on standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce on farms. It is geared toward produce, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, sprouts and nuts, that are likely to be eaten fresh. Not included is produce that is rarely consumed raw, such as potatoes, or is destined for commercial processing.
The rule applies to conventional and organic farms and to greenhouses. Hydroponic produce is also included.
The FDA has already held three public two-day meetings (in Washington D.C., Oregon and Chicago) that the law required, Kulhanek said. "Now the FDA is reaching out to more farmers in different regions. FDA has been hosted in North Carolina and Georgia recently for similar listening sessions."
This meeting is more informal, Kulhanek said. The public can still officially comment on the rule online or in writing by May 16. To comment, click the link from the Federal Register page, or go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for FDA-2011-N-0921. The Federal Register page also includes information to submit comments in writing.