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FDA extends comment deadlines for FSMA rules

WASHINGTON—Produce companies will get more time to comment on new Food Safety Modernization Act rules as the Food & Drug Administration announced Wednesday it plans to extend the deadlines for its high-risk foods document and food defense proposal.

FDA plans a 90-day extension, bringing the deadline to June 30, for the proposal that would set new responsibilities for facilities to protect against intentional adulteration or terrorism.

The United Fresh Produce Association said that even though the proposal exempts farms, it may be interpreted to include packinghouses and fresh-cut operations.

FDA also in giving companies until May 22 to comment on a Feb. 2 document that shows how FDA will decide on a list of high-risk foods, a designation that will trigger additional recordkeeping requirements. FDA is directed by Congress to look at foods involved in past foodborne outbreaks, as well as a number of food- and processing-related factors.

The comment deadline will not be extended for another FSMA regulation that introduces new requirements for animal food and feed operations. The March 31 deadline stands, but FDA announced it will reopen portions of the rule for public comment, just like agency officials pledged to rewrite portions of the produce and preventive controls rules this summer.

“Because the proposed rule on current good manufacturing practice and preventive controls for food for animals is a companion rule to the proposed rule on human food, FDA is announcing that it will publish revised language for this proposed rule as well,” the agency said. “For that reason, the comment period for the proposed rule on animal food, which ends March 31, 2014, is not being extended.”

The fresh produce industry is keeping a close eye on that rule because it “holds registered facilities responsible for assessing potential hazards in produce distributed for animal feed, including culls and waste,” United Fresh said.