The Food and Drug Administration is proposing costly new regulations for growers of apples, pears, and other tree fruits — even though they have a virtually flawless safety record.
“For decades, America’s farmers, ranchers, and fruit growers have become grudgingly accustomed to dealing with onerous regulatory schemes emanating from the Environmental Protection Agency,” according to the CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) website.
“But now the people who grow apples, pears, and other tree fruits have a new tormentor: the Food and Drug Administration,” which is backing standards “that many growers are convinced will put them out of business.”
The new regulations emerge from the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, passed by Congress and the Obama administration, which directed the FDA to prevent foodborne illnesses rather than simply react to outbreaks.
This year the FDA designated which items of produce would be included in the new regulations. Those usually consumed raw (including apples, blueberries, bananas, pears, and peaches) would have to abide by the new regulations, and those that are usually cooked or processed (sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, pumpkins, artichokes, winter squash, etc.) would be exempt, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Growers subject to the new regulations would face an array of new responsibilities, including regular testing of irrigation water, sanitizing canvas fruit-picking bags, and keeping animals away from crops, The Journal explained.
Tree fruit farmers argue that the FDA should focus more on items that have caused deadly outbreaks in the past, such as spinach, instead of items that have never posed a health threat.
An apple farmer in Virginia told The Journal that the compliance costs “would end up getting passed on to the consumer, if we didn’t go out of business first.”
The FDA has said the new requirements would cost American farms about $460 million a year.
Also, some farmers fear that foreign products will not be subject to the same regulations, and foreign competition will drive American farmers out of business.
Farms with average yearly sales of $25,000 or less, and certain other farms that average less than $500,000 in annual sales and sell mostly to consumers within a 275-mile radius, would be exempt from the new requirements, the FDA says.
CFACT reports: “Hoping to avoid the mass shutdown of fruit-tree operations, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Fresh Produce Association are urging the FDA to redraft its proposed regulations.”