AHPA seeks reforms to FDA’s Produce Safety Rule

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AHPA seeks reforms to FDA’s Produce Safety Rule

January 14, 2021: Proposed changes would expand list of crops exempt from Produce Safety Rule, narrow produce definition

Published: Thursday, January 14, 2021

In comments submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Friday, AHPA has requested structural revisions to a list of crops that the agency has determined are “rarely consumed raw” (the RCR list). Foods on the RCR list are exempted from the provisions of the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption regulation, commonly known as the Produce Safety Rule.

FDA issued a Federal Register notice on August 10, 2020 seeking information and comments on produce commodities that had low or no reported consumption in certain federal databases. These commodities had been broadly excluded from the RCR list, which currently covers only 34 crops.

“These comments respectfully emphasize the problems at the core of building an ‘exhaustive’ list of foods that are rarely consumed raw,” said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. “The current RCR list inappropriately burdens farmers of many minor crops, and reforms such as those presented in AHPA’s comments are needed to achieve the regulatory priorities Congress sought in passing the Food Safety Modernization Act.”

AHPA’s comments strongly recommend replacing the current RCR list, which exempts foods from the produce safety rule based on an analysis of limited federal consumption databases. Foods that are reported rarely consumed, or not reported in the databases because they are rarely consumed, are treated as if they are eaten raw and are fully subject to Produce Safety Rule requirements. AHPA instead encourages the development of an exhaustive list of all produce subject to the Produce Safety Rule, with attention to raw consumption evidence available from multiple federal databases.

The comments include an addendum restating AHPA’s 2013 request to a reevaluate the Produce Safety Rule’s expansive definition of “produce” to place it in line with Congressional intent, and call for an ongoing process for FDA to receive data and recommendations to add crops to the set of exempted commodities list as consumption trends change. AHPA’s comments also detail several crop categories and individual species that should be exempted from the produce safety rule requirements because they cannot be eaten raw, including foods such as dry legumes, taro (Colocasia esculenta), and all parts and fruits of the olive tree (Olea europaea).

The Comments were produced with the support of a working group of the AHPA Government Relations Committee. Please contact AHPA President Michael McGuffin or AHPA Director of Regulatory Affairs Robert Marriott with any questions regarding the comments, or to learn more about the Government Relations Committee.