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Will FDA Keep Apples Away?

Wednesday April 24th, 2013   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 8:59am PDT   •  

apple-tree_SmallThe Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is keeping busy overhauling the nation’s food-safety system, a legacy of the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act, which tasked the FDA to prevent food-borne illnesses rather than just respond to them. That means the FDA will have to decide which fruits and vegetables will be subject to new safety standards. In its great wisdom, the FDA wants to target tree fruits such as apples, and pears.

Those who grow apples and pears could be forced into a regulatory regime that calls for stricter testing of their irrigation water, heavier sanitization measures, and more stringent rules on animal abatement. Tree fruit farmers say their product has strong safety record, grows above the ground, and has protective skins. They say the FDA measures defy common sense and would do little to enhance safety. As some argue, the FDA would do better to focus on spinach and cantaloupes, which have caused outbreaks of disease, rather than hang a new regulatory regime on tree fruit.

One Virginia farmer told the Washington Post “what’s being proposed is very onerous and expensive.” Another, from Washington State, said, “Somebody in an office in Washington, D.C., who’s never stepped foot off concrete has decided we need this rule and that rule. . . The market has already taken care of this problem, if it’s a problem. Which it isn’t.”

With good reason, some tree fruit farmers fear that foreign products will not be subject to the same regulation, and that American farmers will be driven out of business. Yet another farmer from Washington State said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The FDA says it is listening, but should also adhere to a different rule: If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

The FDA is also hitting up Congress for more money, proposing a raise of $821 million to $4.7 billion for 2014. FDA boss Margaret Hamburg said that the FDA “is a true bargain among federal agencies” giving Americans “an extraordinary array of benefits for about 2 cents a day.”

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April 2013