Federal food safety officials will provide over $20 million in funding to 42 states, to help implement science-based standards for safer farming and distribution methods involving fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
The FDA issued a press release on September 9, to announce that $21.8 million of federal funds would be distributed nationally to help the advance a nationally integrated food safety system under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The five year funding program is aimed at reducing contamination risks from harmful foodborne bacterial infections such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli, among many others that cause millions of injuries and thousands of deaths annually.
The funding opportunity was announced in March by the FDA, outlining a plan to integrate state and federal food safety systems. The cooperative agreement between the FDA and the states will provide resources to formulate a multi-year plan to incorporate science-based standards, develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance, and for the development of programs to address the specific and unique needs of each farming community.
The FDA broke down the 42 states included in the program into five tiers of funding eligibility based on the estimated number of farms growing certain produce products. The funding is to be distributed throughout those jurisdictions throughout the next five years and be subject to the availability of funding from Congress.
The FSMA was first signed into law in January 2011, with the intent to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it from first happening. Since the enactment of the law, the FDA has released several major food safety rules, including the Produce Safety Rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, and the Accredited Third-Party Certification rule that were announced in November 2015.
The three rules establish enforceable safety standards for produce farms and food importers to adopt science-based contamination prevention methods, food sampling and testing requirements, and to allow for third party auditors to certify facilities are meeting FDA food safety requirements.
The new regulations and programs to improve food safety have been a combination of efforts from the FDA, its key partners, state governments, and the local farming communities who with better communication methods with officials can prevent infection outbreaks through the use of science-based minimum standards.
According to the FDA’s press release, better communication with state agencies is essential to achieving safer farming practices in their jurisdictions because they have a better understanding and knowledge of the specific growing, harvesting and distribution practices and have long standing relationships with the farming community.
“The states were key partners to the FDA as FSMA’s produce safety provisions were being developed. Today’s funding announcement demonstrates the FDA’s commitment to keep working closely with the states as we begin to implement the provisions,” Dr. Stephen Ostroff, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA, said in the press release. “A robust federal-state partnership in produce safety will help protect American consumers from foodborne illness and benefit public health.”
The newly implemented provisions for the funding will require compliance with certain aspects of produce safety rules beginning in January 2018 for larger farms, whereas smaller produce operations will have additional time to comply.