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The County Seat   the Food Safety Modernization Act   FSMA

The County Seat the Food Safety Modernization Act FSMA

Hi I’m Chad Booth welcome to The
County Seat. Got a question for you. You go
down to the produce stand you peaches,
lettuce and you take it home what makes you
think it’s safe. Well you are counting on the
fact that there are regulations to make sure that
produce grower got it to the field correctly.
That’s what our show is about today food safety
modernization act. We are going to start by
looking at the history of food regulation to
get our discussion going. Utahans, just like most
Americans, love their food. It’s estimated that the
average person eats around 4 pounds of food in
a day. And over the course of the year the
average American eats almost a ton of food. Yes
you heard that right a ton. On a daily basis we are
consuming all kinds of foods, from breads and meats, to
fruits and vegetables but how much thought
do you put into how safe that food is? The honest answer for most of us
would be none. It’s because we trust that
food retailers and restaurants are checking
your food for safety. It’s all thanks to food
safety laws that have been in place for years at
this point. Food safety laws in the United
States got their start in 1906 after a novel
published that year inadvertently brought attention
to food safety and sanitization in the Chicago
meat packing industry. After reading the
novel President Theodore Roosevelt called on
congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and
the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the first
food safety laws the nation had ever seen. The two laws helped to address
food safety by regulating food additives for
the first time and were the first steps for truth
in labeling. More small acts would be created over
the next few decades to regulate food
coloration additives, chemical preservatives and food
marketing and in 1969 sanitization programs
for shellfish and milk were added. The next big change in food
safety wouldn’t happen for several decades. “The good safety modernization
act is the most sweeping reform of our food
safety regulations in more than 70 years. It was
signed into law back in 2011.” What made this new law notable
was the shift from laws that were reactive to
proactive. Instead of waiting for things to
happen the Food and Drug Administration is now
taking direct action to made food consumption
safer for American’s everywhere. “The purpose or the reason for
the food safety modernization act was as a
result of several factors including globalization,
more people consuming produce than ever
before and new found science.” That new found safety won’t be
easy or cheap to come by. In our panel
discussion we’ll discuss how the latest steps in
implementing the law will affect both consumers and
food producers in Utah counties. For the County
Seat I’m Malia Stringham. And that brings us to our
conversation of the day the food safety
modernization act how is it going to implement in Utah. We
will pick that conversation up with our panel
of experts when we come back on the County Seat. Welcome back to The County Seat
we are talking today on food safety in
Utah and we have gone through some
background on the food safety modernization act
and some of the acts that have gotten us here
and joining us for our discussion about food safety
Karen Allen who is the food quality
specialist with USU extension we have Thane Tagge a
veteran of County Seat who is the chief
farming officer of Tagge’s fruits LLC and David
Basinger who is a program manager for the Utah
Dept. of Ag and Food. Thank you all for joining
us today. So we have a law that was passed 5-6
years ago it’s been in the process of being
implemented its almost all the way through and
now it’s going to start to take effect on
modernization of food and it broadly expands the
obligations of food inspections interactions between
food makers processors and consumers so I
want to start by talking about how these
implementation particularly in the areas of
produce are changing the game for
inspectors. What kind of obligations or what do you have
to do now that you did not have to do before? Some background just on the law
there are seven separate parts that affect
everything from produce growing through
manufacturing transportation and warehousing
in addition to imports and we are seeing some
compliance states that have already started
others that will be coming through the next
several years and this is a huge law that is
designed to make recalls more effective have them
occur more quickly before an outbreak has a
chance to spread. But this does put an
increased burden on our inspectors those people
that are working for regulatory enforcement and
the Utah Dept. of Ag and food is going to be
taking the lead for that in the state of Utah
especially for the produce portion. So let me ask what a compliance
state is. Is Utah a compliance state and
Colorado is not or does that mean something
different? So what it means is when the FDA
passes a final rule and says okay this
regulation now has to be met our producers our growers
our importers do not have to meet it on that
day they may have 1, 2, 3 or even more years
depending on the specific regulations to
actually get to the point where they are complying
with that new rule. So we will see different
compliance dates for different parts of FSMA and
also within the produce safety rule there will
be different compliance dates for example a
date when someone might have to make sure
all these workers are trained versus when
they have to start doing testing of the water
that they use for irrigation purposes. So is this applied the same all
the way across the board? FSMA I like that
acronym it passes and then all of the sudden the
neighborhood garden around the corner now has
to come into compliance? Not necessarily that depends on
the size of the grower very small farms that are
doing under 25,000 dollars a year in total
produce sales will not have to comply the only
thing they will have to do is keep financial records
just to document that they are below that $25,000
a year threshold. For farms that a
little larger doing up to 500,000 dollars a year they
may still be exempt from many parts of the
rule they could qualify for what the FDA has
termed a qualified exemption. And that depends on
who they are selling to how much they are
selling in total food not just produce but then
for anyone who is above that 500,000 a year
threshold or who is selling to large warehouses or
grocery stores they will have to comply with
the full part of that produce safety rule. So everybody has seen the Tagge
fruit stands around nice handmade signs in
that process are you big enough that this is
going to be a compliance issue for a guy like
you. Yes we meet the above 500,000
dollar amount so we are going to be subject to
FSMA and we knew that was coming down the
road and we have been preparing ourselves
for it as we know it going to be there and
going to stick around. So are there a lot of things
that now have to come under compliance under
inspection that did not before? So a lot of the larger growers
like Thane have already been participating in
other programs such as USDA gap or harmonized
gap or global gap and these are voluntary
programs that came about in the early 2000
around 2001 in an effort for retail operations to
make sure that they were receiving good quality
healthy produce. Thane participates in
that program where he has been doing that
it’s very similar to what this FSMA law is and so for
someone like Thane it’s really not going to
be a large adjustment for him. For these
growers that do not participate in it it may be
something that is a real game changer for them. I am thinking more in terms of
what is going to be required for you guys. From
the inspection side for from not necessarily
for extension but Ag and food you know the FDA who
is going to be or this sounds like there are
going to have to be a lot more boots on the
ground then before, right? So luckily in the state of Utah
we have gone forward and we have decided as a
state to adopt this rule and therefore it
will be our inspectors from the Utah Dept.
of Ag and Food doing the actual inspections
instead of FDA and so that will require us to do
more inspections from our standpoint on these
farmers. am seeing right now? Right now we do have a grant
from the FDA to actually go through and help
with education of the farmers and also conduct the
inspections right now. So what we are
hoping to do is to have money available and go
through our farmers and do these inspections
and on farm readiness reviews to get them
ready and then as time goes by there won’t be
nearly as much for us to actually inspect once
we go through and do the initial inspection at
each operation. So do you feel that the farmers
are basically willing to be in this
compliance? Well how this works is this rule
is to make produce safer for people in the
U.S. so not only for the farmers here in the US
have to abide by this but also international
farmers so Mexico and India other places where we
have to get food also have to abide by these
rules in order to sell their produce in the
states. I have a question as you
describe this to me it just looks like a huge thing
that you have to inspect. Does it apply to the
same thing if you are growing sugar peas as to
whether you are growing alfalfa or growing
something else are all the foods under the same set
of laws? So this specific part of this
produce safety rule applies to produce. That does
not cover anything that would be
considered animal feed or alfalfa. It also does not
cover grains and wheat this applies to those
commodities that we think have typically as
produce. Potatoes corn berries fruits and other
vegetables. Now there are certain types of
produce that are exempted under this law by the
FDA because the FDA conducted an analysis
the food consumption patterns and
anything that they determined was rarely consumed
raw by the average consumer is exempt. So
exempted produce included things like
potatoes sweet corn and winter squash things
where they would normally be cooked before
they are consumed. Okay that reigns it in just a
little bit. We are going to take a quick break here
on The County Seat when we come back we will
pick up and talk about the impact on farmers
when we come back on the new FSMA law. Welcome back to The County Seat
we are talking about food safety here
in Utah with federal regulations we kind of
covered the regulatory side of it and but
now we want to turn our attention to what it
means for guys that grow produce. I guess
Thane the first question I would have is do you
see this as making a peck of peaches more
expensive for me next year than it was last
year? Let me tell you so we have been
anticipating this for quite a while kind of
dragged our feet but we knew we had to pull the
trigger this last year so 2 years ago we were
doing some planning and there are 2 groups
of farmers a group that started down south
and now up north about 16 of us and
associated put together a great program that
reduced our costs helped us design a program
to get started on this so we have to go through
and access our risks as part of the farm. Like
we talked behind the scenes here what are the
issues involved with my farm that would cause
some problems. We address all those and then we
write programs for them then we train
our employees. Everybody that works
for us how to handle the fruit how to keep an
earring out of fruit it goes all the way down
to the delivery trucks to getting it to market.
Let me just tell you it was a lot of work and
stress. I know that some of these farmers are not
going to like this because it’s hard to teach an
old dog new tricks. But we did it and we had 2
internal audits had to make some adjustments Dave
was actually one of my inspectors he came out
and had to make more adjustments things
that we just did not even know yet and we see
their point and we make those adjustments
corrective actions and we move on from there so
this is not very fun for us but I see the
benefits in it and its great. I feel like I am a
better and safer farmer and feel really good about what
we are delivering to the public and its
good. You are intimating that this is
not just across the board thing that it is almost
farm specific. I think so. So what makes your peach orchard
different than the guy down the road by
the dairy farm? Exactly. I do not have a dairy
farm next to me I don’t have water issues by me I
am straight out of Pine View. However I do have
raccoons getting into the corn. So I have
to address that how am I going to handle the
raccoons. That can cause problems. Carefully they bite All these different issues
associated with what we are doing and how we are
approaching our farming. Its great way to
approach its smart and I think it is valuable. This is going to cost you isn’t
it? Yes its money and time and
stress and effort. I have spent a lot of time and I
mean a lot of time doing this and implementing this
I bought a new pesticide storage shed to secure
those pesticides even better than I
have in the past and I am buying plastic bins for
my corn now instead of wood bins just to
relieve an issue of contamination with wood act.
Getting into the product there are all these
different things going to plastic then more other
by products that would hold contamination.
All these things we have address you are looking
at more money. I am going to miss the wood
bushel baskets at the stand. Hey wood is not good. Do you
know it’s better to pick with clean hands no
gloves as gloves can get contaminated there are all
these things that we are learning and things we
can control and things that we cannot control
with our pickers etc. that we have had to address
and take care and Dave is an expert on this
and he help me realize some things we were
doing wrong that we needed to correct. Was he a good student? Yes he was very good. Some of the people that you have
to go in and help get ready for this new
process and inspection do they resist. I think they do at first until
you explain to them and show them it is a benefit to
them. So by them being able to produce
produce that does not have contamination is good
business sense for them. If a contaminated produce goes
out is the farmer liable for the people
that get sick? We have seen cases in past for
example the cantaloupe outbreak from several
years ago where those farms were
bankrupted because of the lawsuits that were brought
against them. There is the possibility for
there to be civil penalties they can be held
responsible for medical bills in addition to the
potential for them to actually do prison time
yes it is a huge issue that farmers need take
seriously. Well we have covered the problem
with farmers we have covered the
challenges to regulators and now we are going
to find out what it means to customers and
the consumers when we get back here on The
County Seat. We will be right back. Welcome back to The County Seat
we have been talking about the food
safety act and what it means for people here in
Utah. We have covered the regulatory and
impact to the farmer. Now what does it mean
to you and I? I will have to admit in full guilt
there is a Tagge fruit stand right near my house
and it convenient for me on my way to
work to pop in there and get stuff. That had
nothing to do with picking you to be on the show.
What does this mean to guy like me that buys
from a stand or from Ream’s which is a local
grower that has a tendency to buy a lot of locally
grown produce and I shop for stuff. Am I in a
much better world than I was before? That is the hope and point of
this whole piece of regulation is that we are
providing safer food and in the event that there is a
problem that is will be easier for us to recall
that food so the problem does not spread. As far
as what you would see walking into a grocery
store there will not be a whole lot of
difference in what you physically see displayed won’t
be labeling changes so you will see things
very similar as to what they were before? You actually bring up a good
point. It sounds like there are 2 components here
one is making food safer all the stuff that
you went through to be a better farmer but you are
talking about recalls. How do these
regulations affect recalls? So these regulations require
that everyone keep very careful and clear records
showing where ingredients or foods were
purchased from how they were used when they were
used and what result in products that went
into transporters have to keep those records show
where they picked food up where they
delivered it so if there is a recall the FDA should
be able to go back through that entire record
keeping trail to figure out where the problem
started where that food was distributed
afterwards so that it can be recalled very quickly and
efficiently. We talked about this liability
thing if you have some of your mango peach salsa
that goes bad the recall is going to cost you
money do you actually want it recalled? Absolutely we don’t want you to
get sick. We don’t want you to get sick like
she said these farmers down in Colorado are out
of business and we want everything safe too.
Our product only gets sold in Utah we feel
like we are safe. Utah products in general there
is not a lot of processing when you start doing
the processing water and adding cleaning and
that is when you start getting into trouble and
generally speaking a lot of it is just picked from
the tree right to the consumer which is what you try
to do to eliminate problems and then we
have our lot numbers. Our lot numbers are
the day we pick so if we do have a problem we
are going to shut it down we don’t want anybody to
get sick. Excellent. Thank you all this
has been a very good conversation unfortunately
far too short. Remember local government is
where your life happens the efforts of people
like these folks right here and obviously Thayne
for his fruit is what makes living in Utah such a
good place remember the county seat is
inviting you to watch us on social media and
also get involved in local government. See you
next week on The County Seat.

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