PMA/DDA Field Tour Brings Real-World Produce Safety Insights to FDA’s Ostroff, Policymakers
— Produce Marketing Association (PMA) senior staff co-hosted local farm and packinghouse visits on Aug. 5 for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Stephen Ostroff, M.D., and other senior FDA officials. The tours in Delaware, co-hosted with Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA), were designed to inform senior FDA policymakers and regulators about real-world challenges facing the fresh produce supply chain, to help them make practical decisions regarding fresh produce safety and implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
“These tours are part of PMA’s ongoing work to connect the policymakers who regulate our industry with fruit and vegetable producers’ realities and experiences, to encourage them to develop real-world workable solutions to our industry’s unique food safety needs,” said PMA President Cathy Burns.
Ostroff was accompanied by senior officials from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) including: Samir Assar, Ph.D., produce safety division director; Ted Elkin, CFSAN deputy director for regulatory affairs; and Rebecca Buckner, interim director for FSMA operations. Leanne Skelton, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service liaison to FDA, also participated in the tour.
Produce industry experts participating in the tour included: Cathy Burns, PMA president; Jim Gorny, Ph.D. PMA vice president of food safety and technology; Bob Whitaker, Ph.D., PMA chief science & technology officer; Ed Kee, Delaware agriculture secretary and key DDA staff; and produce safety extension specialists from University of Delaware and Virginia Tech.
The group toured Coastal Growers in Laurel, Del., a watermelon producer, and Fifer Orchards in Wyoming, Del., which produces a variety of fruits and vegetables including apples, berries and corn on 2,000 acres. Growers and regulators discussed current produce-safety practices, FSMA implementation, and business challenges facing local fruit and vegetable producers. A key message delivered by those producers was that they know food safety begins on the farm, and they take seriously their role to provide wholesome, safe produce to consumers because their families and businesses depend on it.
“We are thankful for the opportunity to show how Delaware’s family fruit and vegetable farmers are second to none,” said DDA’s Kee. “We appreciate the discussions with the FDA and PMA, and look forward to continued progress in helping America’s farmers keep our food healthy and abundant.”
Frequent, in-depth engagement with federal, state and public health food policymakers and regulators is a key part of PMA’s issues leadership strategy. PMA’s goal is to foster dialogue and better understanding by those officials about real-world produce safety experiences, challenges and opportunities. In September 2009, PMA hosted a similar tour for then-FDA Commissioner Dr. Peggy Hamburg, Ph.D., and Ostroff’s predecessor Michael Taylor, J.D.
Ostroff took over as FDA’s top food regulator on June 1, replacing Taylor. PMA’s Burns, Gorny and Whitaker had proposed the field tour during an introductory meeting with Ostroff and his staff in June. Gorny then partnered with Kee and his office to plan tours in an area that is a major produce-growing region for the East Coast. DDA worked with leading produce safety researchers and extension specialists from University of Delaware and Virginia Tech whose work is being funded by the Center for Produce Safety.
“This is a critically important time for the produce industry to engage regulators, as FSMA implementation and compliance dates approach. We are ramping up our communications to encourage FDA to develop and implement practical FSMA compliance policies that will enhance produce safety, increase consumer confidence and avoid those policies from becoming business roadblocks,” said PMA’s Gorny.
Note to editors: For more information, contact DDA’s Daniel Shortridge, email [email protected], telephone 1-302-698-4520.
About Produce Marketing Association (PMA)
Produce Marketing Association is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption. For more information, visit www.pma.com