When the Produce Safety Rule became final in November 2015, the FDA began the process of building the Produce Safety Network (PSN) to support the efforts of farmers, regulators, and other key stakeholders to implement the rule. The network consists of FDA produce safety experts, located in various locations throughout the country.
The network is currently staffed by six produce safety experts and one team leader from the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), and 14 investigators and two branch chiefs from the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA). They will work closely with key produce stakeholders, such as state produce safety programs, to provide regulatory support and technical assistance.
“Before the Produce Safety Network, most of our subject matter experts were in Washington, but that’s not where the farms are,” explained Michael Mahovic, Ph.D., chief of the Fresh Produce Branch in FDA’s Division of Produce Safety in CFSAN. “The PSN staff will be our regional subject matter experts, our go-to people for the states as we work together to implement the Produce Safety Rule."
The work of these regional experts will be internally coordinated by FDA. They are uniquely positioned to provide on-site technical support to states, to answer questions about the produce rule and associated guidances, taking into account the varied growing conditions and practices of their individually assigned regions. Their familiarity with region-specific practices and conditions will also enhance their ability to provide input into the development and implementation of policy, guidance, and training developed by FDA. This staff will also be responsible for conducting foreign inspections under the Produce Safety Rule. Because they are also part of a national network, the PSN staff will coordinate and collaborate with their colleagues across the country, to ensure consistency where appropriate.
While the first compliance date for certain sprout operations has already occurred, the initial compliance dates for the majority of covered farms are approaching in 2018. In anticipation of the upcoming compliance dates, FDA is working closely with our partners to prepare both regulators and the regulated industry for the new standards. Produce Safety Network staff will be active in their assigned regions over the next year developing relationships with their regulatory partners and other key stakeholders, attending training, familiarizing themselves with the unique practices and conditions in the region, and conducting outreach.
The FDA consulted with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) throughout the process of establishing the Produce Safety Network and will continue to work with USDA to help ensure the safety of all foods produced for American consumers.
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