FDA is talking to farmers about food safety - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

FDA is talking to farmers about food safety

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

TIFTON, GA (WALB) – Charles Hart is a farmer in Sumter County.

"We grow green beans, cotton along with other items corn," he said.

And like every other farmer, he wants to make sure that he sends a good product to market.  Thursday, he joined dozens of other growers, farmers, government officials and academics in a meeting at the University of Georgia Conference Center.

According to Jim O'Hara, the Director of the Produce Safety Project said, "we have about 130 folks here."

The morning topics concerned composting and water safety.  In the afternoon it was hygiene and environmental concerns.  It's all leading up to one thing.

Thursday's session in Tifton is the third of four sessions being put on by the Produce Safety Project.  The goal is to come up with a new set of regulations for FDA to implement which will affect local growers.

The topic of all of the discussion here:  food safety.

"What's the best way to protect fruits and vegetables.  And to make certain that they're grown, packed and harvested in a safe manner," said O'Hara.

For the federal government, these listening sessions are a new way of doing things.  Instead of simply putting out new regulations and allowing public comment, they're holding these listening sessions before finalizing the new guidelines.

They're looking to work with farmers and growers, and Hart and the others in attendance want to let them know what their concerns are.

"We're just trying to make sure that everything that's being implemented will not only be to the benefit of the consumer, but to us as producers," said Hart.

While the American food supply can never be 100 per cent safe, the goal of the FDA is to make any food borne illness outbreaks extremely rare.  And to catch anything that might occur before it gets to the consumer.

"We need to look at more prevention based efforts.  What measures can we put in place throughout the food industry, but especially today we're talking about the produce industry, to help prevent these outbreaks," said Jeff Farrar, the Associate Commissioner for Food Protection for the Food and Drug Administration.

So that the consumer can be sure that when their produce goes from the farm, to the store, to the table, it's as safe as possible.

The proposed new rules for food safety are expected to be out by the end of the year. After another comment period, the final rules will be enacted, and that may not happen until sometime in 2011.

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