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Food Safety News

Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on the Funding Awards to States for FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Implementation

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More than 3,000 Americans are estimated to die each year from foodborne illnesses and many more are hospitalized and sickened. Yet most of these illnesses and deaths are preventable. While the U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, Congress entrusted the FDA with new authorities and resources – as part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – to update and strengthen the FDA’s risk-based approach to the oversight of food safety.

This new law is transforming our food safety system from one that responds to contamination to one that prevents it in the first place. This change cannot happen without the support of our state partners who are helping food producers and growers understand and achieve the new requirements promulgated at Congress’ direction. These state partnerships are critical to our commitment to take an efficient and risk-based approach to the implementation of these new authorities. They help the FDA provide education and training to the agriculture community and facilitate compliance. These efforts ultimately ensure that our food is safe no matter where it’s produced.

Our partnerships with states are especially critical when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, which are covered under FSMA’s produce safety rule. States have a long history of successfully working with their farming communities. That’s why we leverage relationships with state-based partners to achieve many of our goals. Today we’re announcing an additional step in these efforts. The FDA is awarding $30.9 million in funding to support 43 states in their continued efforts to help implement the produce safety rule. This is the largest allocation of funds to date, made available by the FDA to help state agencies support FSMA produce safety rule implementation and develop state-based produce safety programs.

The FSMA produce safety rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The rule is a critical part of FSMA and was developed after careful consideration of stakeholder comments. It reflects the feedback that the FDA received from thousands of public commenters.

The new funding the FDA is announcing today is a key part of the success of this program and the agency’s collaborative efforts with state-based programs. The funding will ensure that awardees have the resources to formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system and develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance. These programs will prioritize farming operations covered by the produce safety rule. The funding will help awardees develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of their farming communities.

The availability of funding to states to support the produce safety rule was first announced in March 2016. Bids were open to all states and U.S. territories. In September 2016, we announced the awarding of $21.8 million to support 42 states with implementation of the produce safety rule. The $30.9 million we’re announcing today represents the second year of funding from the FDA to the states. Additional information on state awardees can be found here.

We look forward to continuing our work with states and all those who grow fruits and vegetables covered by the rule to improve produce safety, consistent with the mandate Congress gave the FDA under the new law. Working with the states, the FDA will also continue its vigorous outreach. We want to hear from farmers and other food producers to understand what challenges remain and how the FDA can best support their efforts to enhance produce safety. We all want the same thing: safe produce that our families can eat with confidence. We want to help deliver the economic and public health benefits that come when consumers know that produce is overseen by a modern, gold standard system for ensuring its safety.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, promotes and protects the public health by, among other things, assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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