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United Fresh seeks extension for comments on FSMA rules

United Fresh has submitted a request to the Office of Management & Budget to extend the comment period on certain provisions in the proposed Produce & Preventive Controls Rules.

Several provisions currently face a comment deadline of Feb. 15. According to United Fresh, the extension is necessary to provide sufficient time for the industry to examine and respond to the complex and substantial changes proposed for the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, as well as all other food industries in the United States.

"United is in the midst of a very exhaustive review process with our members," David Gombas, United's senior vice president of food safety and technology, said in a press release. "The proposed rules are part of a larger suite of rules that are all interrelated and will have far-reaching effects on the industry. The request is consistent with the time needed to properly respond, especially given that three additional proposed rules — on foreign supplier verification, preventive controls for animal feed, and accredited third-party certification — are scheduled to be released in the near future and will also impact the industry."

United Fresh member-driven working groups for the two proposed rules have held several calls and webinars to move the review process forward in preparation for submitting comments to FDA. The working groups will also meet in coordination with FDA's public FSMA hearings Feb. 27 in Washington, DC, March 13 in Chicago and March 26 in Portland, OR.

"United Fresh has consistently supported mandatory, enforceable, commodity-specific food-safety practices based on the best available science, applicable to both domestic and foreign produce," Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of United Fresh, added in the press release. "That support continues through this rulemaking process. We ask that the comment period for those provisions be extended so that United Fresh and other interested parties can have a reasonable opportunity to provide FDA with meaningful input on these important initiatives."