Jun 24, 2015
PMA meets with industry leaders to address produce safety policy

Produce Marketing Association officials convened leaders of the fresh produce industry, regulatory officials, and esteemed members of academia for a Produce Safety Policy Conference in Washington D.C. Topics discussed during the event were the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work regarding Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation and Listeria monocytogenes food safety policy, with the intent to leverage the thought leadership and collective expertise of industry and its stakeholders.

Collaborating on FSMA implementation to yield success

The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s (CFSAN) Roberta Wagner joined to discuss the FDA’s FSMA implementation strategy. She noted that FSMA implementation consists of three phases; with the agency currently working on phase two strategies and frameworks to implement FSMA regulations.

In regards to recent decisions on funding, Jim Gorny, PMA vice president of food safety and technology said, “FDA’s FSMA regulations – and consumer safety – are critically dependent on a properly funded FSMA implementation plan. FDA has received additional authorities and additional resources and we appreciate the additional $40 million proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FSMA implementation in FY 2016. Much work remains to train, educate and implement FSMA by both FDA and the food industry. We recognize the resource limitations faced by the Appropriations Committee and look forward to working with them and FDA to make the case for full funding for FSMA implementation.”

In addition, the role of state departments of agriculture and marketing agreements were discussed via a panel of speakers that included the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Senior Policy and Science Advisor Bob Ehart, Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) President Stephen Stich, California Leafy Green Marketing Association (LGMA) CEO Scott Horsfall and the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS) Chief of Audit Services Ken Petersen.

“Finding solutions to the issues facing the industry takes collaboration,” said Bob Whitaker, PMA chief science and technology officer. “Not only from the industry leaders across the fresh produce and floral supply chain, but from stakeholders like consumer interest groups and government. We have to constantly monitor the environment and take industry-supporting actions by building relationships and hosting forums, like this one, that help us engage and inform key stakeholders – so together, we can develop solutions that work.”

Sound policy creation a key for Listeria

Jenny Scott, a senior advisor at FDA CFSAN joined Keller & Heckman Partner Leslie Krasny to provide an overview regarding Listeria policy and the FDA’s current thinking on the topic – including where the policies stand abroad. Martin Wiedmann of Cornell University and Donald Schaffner of Rutgers University led discussion on Listeria essentials and management strategies as seen in other food industries.

A key takeaway from the discussion was the critical need for the produce industry to have a regulatory framework that permits packers and processors to proactively seek niches where Listeria may reside within their operations and employ strategies to eliminate it.

“The presentations on risk assessment and listeria control were the best I've ever seen,” said Drew McDonald, senior vice president of quality assurance and food safety, Church Brothers. “They contained just the right blend of science and practical considerations that will likely be part of further dialogue with FDA and industry. It was also a unique opportunity to get some insight into how the regulators are looking at industry and some of the challenges they are preparing for internally.”

The event held as a part of PMA’s overall Issues Leadership work, which utilizes an approach combining government relations, public affairs, and public relations to provide leadership on key issues and opportunities that impact the consumption of members’ products worldwide. For more information about the areas addressed through this work, visit PMA’s Issues Leadership blog.

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