Yesterday, the USDA and FDA released a joint statement on their intent to coordinate efforts to achieve better produce safety. See Salinas Valley, Leafy Green Vegetables, and E. coli for a description and summary of the problem. The joint statement reads as follows:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration are working together to achieve the goals of enhancing the safety and quality of fresh produce in ways that take into account the wide diversity of farming operations. We are committed to leveraging the expertise of our partner agencies and working together to ensure that our current produce safety and quality activities are complementary and consistent. While USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is in the midst of evaluating a proposed marketing agreement for the leafy green industry, the FDA is currently developing a proposed produce safety regulation. It is our expectation that these products will take into account the diverse nature of farming operations and that any marketing agreement would conform to any regulations that may be promulgated by FDA.
The success of these efforts depends on the feedback and comments we receive from growers and other produce safety stakeholders. AMS will continue to review the comments that have been submitted to USDA on the proposed marketing agreement. To further inform its planned rulemaking, the FDA is announcing today the establishment of a docket to receive information about current practices and conditions for the production and packing of fresh produce and practical approaches to improving produce safety. The FDA will work with AMS to have the testimony from the AMS hearings placed in the FDA docket for consideration by the FDA. The FDA encourages all interested persons to submit information they believe will inform the development of safety standards for fresh produce at the farm and packing house, as well as strategies and cooperative efforts to ensure compliance with those standards.