April 25, 2017

By Skylar Schneider, Executive Assistant

Contact: Chelsea Matzen, 202-554-1600

In September 2016, 42 states received federal funding through the State Produce Implementation Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP) to be used for development of produce safety programs that provide education, technical assistance, inspection, compliance, and oversight regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This funding is key because the states will maintain the regulatory oversight of ensuring compliance with FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule. When it comes time for FSMA Produce Safety Rule inspections, states will be the ones carrying out inspections. The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) recently posted a constituent update regarding this federal-state partnership, accompanied by the transcript of a conversation between Erik Mettler, acting Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Richard Ball, New York’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, and Joseph Corby, Executive Director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials. Summarized below are some key takeaways from this conversation:

  • The Produce Safety Rule can only be effectively implemented when local, state, and federal agencies work together to leverage their resources. Furthermore, the goal of food safety is best accomplished when the system works as a whole. State and local agencies are the first responders in food safety issues, but the FDA provides a more comprehensive response when the issues become multi-state or national.
  • This cooperative-agreement framework was necessary because while the FDA has the funding, the state and local agencies are the ones who have built long-term, trusting relationships with growers. State and local agencies understand specific needs at the local level, but the FDA simply doesn’t have those same relationships or knowledge.
  • The success and future of the State CAP is dependent upon sustained funding. Beyond that, states must take full advantage of the FDA’s commitment to join states and local agencies in educating while regulating. It’s also vital to coordinate outreach and education efforts between various governmental agencies, cooperative extensions and academic institutions.

As the last point indicates, the various recipients of the State CAP funding will be key partners with the Local Food Safety Collaborative (LFSC) as well as other projects charged with educating growers and the public on FSMA. As LFSC plans activities across the country it is coordinating with FDA, state agencies, regional coordination centers, and other groups to ensure a broad reach. This coordination will avoid duplicative work and provide resources where they are most needed.

Another organization helping with State CAP coordination is the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). They recently held a meeting for all State CAP recipients, as well as those states that did not receive funding but are still responsible for implementation. During this meeting, regulatory officials spoke with FDA staff, Extension, and other partners to share information and best practices that may be applicable to various states and regions. This coordination between states, as well as between local, state, and federal agencies in implementing FSMA was an important step forward in collaboration.

It is unclear as of now how state agencies may work with tribal nations but it is the hope of LFSC that they will coordinate with the Tribal Cooperative Agreement to ensure proper education and training is made available.