By Michael R. Taylor and Samir Assar
One year ago this week, our FDA team was touring farms, food processing and packing companies, and irrigation systems in the Pacific Northwest to hear the concerns that growers and others have about certain standards in the Produce Safety rule that FDA proposed in January 2013.
The proposals of particular concern were those related to the irrigation water that makes it possible for farmers to maintain acres of lush farmland in a mountainous desert.
With us during that trip—as we walked through fields, shared meals with farmers and engaged in frank conversations—was Dr. Erick Snellman, a microbiologist and expert in the safety of agricultural water and microbial contamination of produce.
No one was more engaged than Erick in working with these growers on the best way to keep the irrigation water safe for use on crops that feed families in the United States, and all over the world. This was not just a job to him. He was passionate about using his knowledge to safeguard public health, to give families like his confidence in the safety of the foods they eat.
This week our colleagues gathered again, this time in suburban Maryland, to join Erick’s family and friends in honoring his life. On Saturday, Aug. 9, Erick died of cancer after a courageous battle over the last several months.
Erick wanted to make a difference, to do the right thing, and he did. FDA would not be able to meet its public health mandate without Erick and others who have made this mission their life’s work.
Michael R. Taylor is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine
Samir Assar, Ph.D., is the Director of FDA’s Produce Safety Staff