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1/16/2013 4:45:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Photo by Kacie Thrift
During fall last year, the town was filled with smoke after a large fire started up the Mission Creek area and in Wenatchee. The Washington State Department of Resources is soliciting project proposals that address and reduce the threat of wildfire in eastern Washington to help prevent fire disasters.
New FDA regulations a concern for local growers
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer



The tree fruit growers of Washington were told disappointing news on Jan. 4 when the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) released the new food safety regulations, stating tree fruit growers will have to meet the same regulations as row crop growers.

Bruce Grim, Washington Horticulture Association's executive director said, the Food Safety Modernization Act is not good news. He said consequences for the new safety issues might mean a reduction in the number of small family farms.

Over 500 pages of new regulations have been given to everyone involved in the business of tree fruit. Peter Sanderson, with Blue Star Growers, said the new regulations are overwhelming.

"The guidelines came out on Friday [Jan. 4] and I have not had a chance to go through all of them. There are some 500 pages and it's going to take some time to figure out these new rules," Sanderson said.

The Food Safety Modernization act has a section which directs FDA to set science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables the agency has determined minimizes the risk of severe health consequences. The rules cover farms and warehouses but will not take effect until after the next growing season.

The proposed rules have been given a 120-day comment period which started on Jan. 4. FDA issued the proposed rules in the Federal Register so the public can review the rules and submit comments. Once comments are received FDA will consider revising the rule based on the comments.

The proposed rule focuses on the identified route of microbial contamination of produce including agricultural water, health and hygiene, biological soil amendments of animal origin, treatment of domesticated and wild animals, equipment, tools, buildings, sprouts, recordkeeping and training.

"One of the biggest issues I have heard about is irrigation water. There could be a requirement that any water that might touch fruit has to be at water bottle standards," Sanderson said. "Right now that would be a major stepping block for us."

The proposed rule for agricultural water requires all agricultural water be safe and of adequate sanitary quality for its intended use. "Agricultural water" could be defined as water that is intended to or might contact covered produce or food contact surfaces. The new regulations propose at the beginning of the growing season, the agricultural water system components is to be inspected to identify conditions.

Regulations for imported food and traceability will be released on a later date.

On a better note for Blue Star Growers, they are already complying with a voluntary program called Global Gap. Global Gap is a non-governmental organization that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products. Dryden fruit grower, Keith Goehner, works with Blue Star Growers and is hoping the standards they are following will roll over into the new regulations.

"Given what we have already been doing, it's been a matter of documenting the orchards and how the fruit has been handled. At this point it might just be a different form," Goehner said. "We definitely need a little more clarity."

Sanderson said retailers require growers and warehouses to follow a specific standard of health regulations in order to purchase fruit. He said one problem with the retailers having regulations and the FDA having regulations is they might be torn between two different sets of rules.

"It's not like we can say okay FDA has their program and then not have to do anything else. What we are doing is dictated by the people who buy our fruit. If a retailer says you have to do the FDA stuff but we also want our own program, then we still have to do that," Sanderson said.

Once the commentary period has ended only time will tell whether or not revisions will be made to the new regulations.

Nicole Brunner, with Washington Horticulture Association, said she and Grim are busy getting together with the council and getting their questions ready for the comment period. She said it is a good thing they will be able to go to the FDA with their concerns before the final rules are made.

FDA is proposing the requirements be effective 60 days after a final rule is published in the Federal Register. They have recognized small businesses may need more time to comply with the requirements so compliance dates would be phased based on business size.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com.





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