FDA Cooperative Agreements with States to Advance Food Safety
By Stephen Ostroff, M.D., FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine
The FDA is honoring an important commitment by awarding millions of dollars to the states that will help implement the new produce safety rule mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to protect consumers from foodborne illness.
In FSMA, Congress envisioned a strong partnership between the FDA and the state agencies that have a greater understanding of the growing and harvesting practices in their areas. Many have longstanding relationships with farmers and produce associations.
To support this partnership, the FDA is awarding $21.8 million in cooperative agreements to 42 states in support of their work to help implement the new produce rule. These funds will provide states with the resources they need to develop a produce safety system, considering the specific and unique needs of their growers for education, outreach, and technical assistance.
The funding for each state is based on the estimated number of farms in the state that grow produce covered by the FSMA rule. The goal is to provide resources that will enable the states to develop a multi-faceted, multi-year plan that includes an assessment of their produce safety landscape, including an evaluation of existing state authorities to implement a produce safety program and ways to develop a strong outreach and education program with growers.
The produce safety rule, which became final in November 2015, establishes science-based standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables. State leaders were key partners as the produce provisions were being developed, providing valuable input on how to make the requirements as practical and flexible as possible for growers while still protecting public health.
The cooperative agreements build on a foundation laid long before the produce rule became final. Enacted in 2011, FSMA included several important provisions aimed at strengthening the National Integrated Food Safety System so that the more than 3,000 state, local, and tribal government agencies involved in food safety are fully integrated in FDA’s work to fulfill FSMA’s mandate.
We have been steadily building this system, and in our FY2017 budget request we have asked Congress for an additional $11.3 million in new budget authority to further support the development of state produce safety programs.
In 2014, the FDA entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) that brought together state partners to collaboratively plan implementation of the produce safety rule. The framework developed by NASDA will guide and inform states as they work on their own regulatory programs.
The cooperative agreements are part of a long-term strategy to strengthen this working partnership with the states. We’re in this together and the FDA will continue to support its state partners as we work to make the vision of a preventive and risk-based food safety system a reality.
This article was originally published on FDA Voice and is reprinted here with permission.