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With little fanfare, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act Jan 4 after returning from his holiday break in Hawaii.

"The Food Safety Modernization Act is the most significant food safety law of the last 100 years," Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a Jan. 3 press call.

Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who also spoke on the press call, said the agency was “fairly far along in developing science-based minimum standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables that addresses a range of concerns, worker health and hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, water issues and soil issues and other issues.”

The FDA expects to propose the rule in about a year, she said.

The Produce Marketing Association praised the new FDA reform law and the industry's involvement in shaping it.

“Throughout the long legislative process, we worked diligently to inform key decision-makers to help guide this legislation in a direction that will best serve consumer safety and our industry’s food safety needs,” Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer of PMA, in a Jan. 5 statement. “Although we don’t support exemptions that were added to the bill, we are encouraged by the positive aspects and smart reforms that form the bill’s backbone.”

“I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who worked countless hours to advance food-safety efforts, as well as those members who contacted their congresspersons and senators on this bill,” Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce and floral at Schnuck Markets Inc., and chairman of PMA’s board of directors and Government Affairs Committee, added in the statement. “As complex as this has been in the last couple of weeks, one thing is clear: Now more than ever, it is vital that our industry is seen and heard on the subject of food safety.”