Environmental Impact of Food Safety to be Studied

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Food and Drug Administration has announced its plan to research the environmental impacts of its proposed food safety regulations that aim to prevent foodborne illnesses, such as e. coli and salmonella.
     In March, the FDA issued a proposed rule entitled “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumptions.”
     The agency plans to establish standards for safe food production of fruits and vegetables, as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act that would minimize risks of illness and death from produce.
     The proposed rule relates to “microbiological hazards” and sets out standards for worker training, and management of agricultural water, soil, and animal activity near where produce is grown and harvested.
     The rule would require special steps for producing bean sprouts, such as testing for e. coli and salmonella, among other things.
     The FDA estimates it will cost $1.6 billion to prevent all the illnesses associated with produce contamination, and will prevent 1.75 million foodborne illnesses annually.
     The agency announced this week that it intends to prepare an environmental impact statement for the proposed rule after finding the action could have a significant effect on the environment.
     For instance, the FDA originally thought switching from surface to ground water for irrigation was cost and time prohibitive, but received public comments suggesting that irrigation practices in some regions use water that will likely not meet proposed microbial standards throughout much of their growing seasons.
     “Similarly, comments received caused FDA to reevaluate the proposed requirements for biological soil amendments of animal origin, which propose an increasingly stringent set of application restrictions based on the likelihood of the soil amendment harboring pathogens,” the agency wrote.
     “These proposed requirements, if finalized, are expected to result in changes in current use of treated and untreated biological soil amendments of animal origin or potentially greater use of synthetic fertilizers. Changes in the type or handling of soil amendments may significantly affect the quality of the human environment.”
     The document started the public scoping process to solicit comments on an environmental impact statement for the proposed regulation. The public comment period ends Nov. 15.

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