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FDA grants extension to comment period for FSMA rules

In response to requests by United Fresh and other food industry groups, the Food & Drug Administration announced that it will extend the comment period to May 16 for the information collection provisions of the proposed rule on "Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption" (Produce Rule) and the same provisions in the proposed rule on "Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food" (Preventive Controls Rule). The deadline for submission of comments had been originally set for Feb. 15.

The proposed Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule are part of the regulatory framework under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

In its request, United Fresh said that an 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.

These extensions do not apply to the other provisions of the proposed Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule, which currently have a comment period deadline of May 16. However, United Fresh is likely to soon make a formal request for additional time to provide comments on both proposed rules.

"United is in the midst of a very exhaustive review process with our members," David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh, 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 FDA has yet to release its draft rules for Foreign Supplier Verification, Preventive Controls for Animal Feed and Accredited Third-Party Certification, which will also be part of the FSMA regulatory framework.