Review Federal Food Safety Rules

Review Federal Food Safety Rules

Posted on September 19, 2013

Bismarck Tribune editorial - September 10, 2013

Food safety has a high ranking among public concerns. Every time there’s another incident where people become terribly ill after eating contaminated cantaloupe, lettuce or hamburger, demand ratchets up for government to do something.

Congress did something in 2010. It passed the Food Safety Act and it directed the Food and Drug Administration to propagate the rules.

It makes sense, but maybe not so much. The idea was to follow the source of the contamination back to its source, which often is a farmer’s field. Then the FDA applied food-production standards to those farm operations, such as not allowing birds and wildlife in fields and not using river water for irrigation unless it’s treated. For farmers, that’s pretty much unworkable. And if adopted, all of this would drive up the price of food astronomically without reducing reasonable risk.

Most grain crops in North Dakota generally are exempted. But people who grow sunflowers, either for people or bird food, will face really tough hurdles, and producers who raise food-grade soybeans are afraid they are next. The FDA has proposed standards that could drive farmers out of business.

It’s nearly impossible to apply food-processing standards to a farm field in North Dakota, and it doesn’t make sense.

People have until Nov. 15 to comment on the proposed FDA regulation for food safety. The comment period has already been extended several times because of producer concerns around the country.

A big concern on the part of North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and some producers is that the standards appear so nonsensical that people don’t believe the federal government would actually adopt and enforce them. Many producers do not think the standards will ever affect them or will come to pass, so they don’t comment.

It’s a big risk to not comment. Too much of a risk.

North Dakotans should review the proposed rules and comment using Internet links provided by the FDA.

No one wants a food system that’s unsafe. But Congress should have asked the United States Department of Agriculture to draw up the rules and regulations instead of the FDA; the USDA understands production agriculture and what it can and cannot do.

To review the proposals online, go to: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm359436.htm

Rule 1: Preventive Controls for Human Food, http://regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;DFDA-2011-N-0920

Rule 2: Produce Safety Standards, http://regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;DFDA-2011-N-0921