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OTA encouraged by FDA revisions to Food Safety Modernization Act

Feedback from the organic sector has a meaningful impact

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(888) 502-2671
Baltimore , MD
September 19, 2014
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Encouraged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) revised language for its new rules implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Organic Trade Association (OTA) said on Friday that the revisions clearly indicate that FDA listened to the feedback from organic producers and handlers and responded to the unique requirements of the organic system.

“The organic sector supports development of regulations that provide safe food for all Americans, and the proposed revisions demonstrate the confidence that the public should have in the organic production system. OTA looks forward to continued collaboration with FDA to formulate regulations that create a system that meets the needs of both organic farmers and organic consumers,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of OTA.

FDA announced Friday the anxiously anticipated revised language. The revisions apply to key provisions of the proposed rules on produce safety and preventive controls for human food. Both proposed rules would significantly impact organic farmers and handlers across the country.

Since January 2013, OTA’s Food Safety Task Force has worked to raise awareness on the issue throughout the organic sector and develop comments to FDA proposing solutions to align with the organic regulations without a reduction in food safety.

“I've been very encouraged by this rulemaking process. FDA has done a fine job reaching out to organic stakeholders in order to understand how the proposed food safety rules will interact with the organic standards,” said Gwendolyn Wyard, OTA Regulatory Director, Organic Standards and Food Safety.

OTA is particularly pleased to see the FDA revisions regarding manure and compost since extensive OTA surveys of organic producers nationwide have showed the importance of compost and manure in organic production. FDA’s removal of restrictions on properly made compost corroborates its importance in sustainable approaches to agriculture. OTA also applauds FDA’s recognition that its previous proposed restrictions on unprocessed manure conflict with organic production standards.

Regarding proposed water testing requirements, the proposed revisions released this morning indicate that FDA has heard the concerns of organic farmers across America. The initial proposed water quality standard has been revised to reflect a more realistic risk-based approach. This approach has less potential to impose economic hardship on organic farmers, while supporting the safest food supply in the world.

Finally, regarding packing and distributing provisions, FDA’s announcement supports a collaborative approach to local and regional agriculture. It clarifies the rules and reduces unwarranted burdens for operations that pack and distribute produce on their own farms as well as produce from neighboring farms.

OTA will once again convene its Food Safety Task Force to analyze the proposed changes in order to shape OTA’s comments that will be submitted on behalf of membership. OTA is now inviting its members to weigh in on whether the proposed changes adequately satisfy the concerns expressed in the initial comment periods.

OTA looks forward to continued collaboration with members and with FDA to formulate regulations that create a system meeting the needs of both organic farmers and organic consumers.

OTA will continue to ensure that food safety regulations fully take into account organic practices, and avoid prescriptive requirements that could mandate use of materials, practices or technologies conflicting with the organic standards.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.