Hundreds of people have testified over the past two days at an FDA field hearing on food safety in Portland.
Six years ago, Bend resident Chrissy Christoferson’s ten-month-old son suffered a ten-day struggle with what first appeared to be a touch of the flu.
“We didn’t think much of it. We begrudgingly changed diaper after diaper. But after a few days we became concerned, especially after layers of skin were falling off with each diaper change,” Christoferson said.
The diagnosis: a salmonella infection. Christoferson says her son was likely sickened by contaminated imported spice added to the snack Veggie Booty. The product’s parent company wound up recalling Veggie Booty.
Christoferson asked FDA staff to catch outbreaks before they happen.
Making preventative rules is a new area for the FDA. Under the terms of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, the agency will now oversee regulations applying to domestic and foreign food producers. It will regulate what happens at farms, and look into proprietary recipes and processes.
Although, as FDA senior advisor Donald Kraemer reminded attendees Thursday, the FDA will rely heavily on private, third-party inspections for compliance.
The implications for Northwest food producers are huge. Elizabeth Fujas started Rising Sun Farms, south of Medford, 30 years ago.
“One of our first products was pesto sauce, and this was back when nobody knew what pesto was.”
Fujas says food safety was integral to her company from the start. But those practices, she says, developed over time.
“It would have been overwhelming for us to make and pay for staff and internal changes that FDA is suggesting small companies must make in two years after the rules are finalized.”
Fujas urged the FDA to make allowances for small operations, and those with a record of producing safe foods.
Most of the larger operations directed their comments toward a need asked for clarity in FDA rules. Fabiola Burke works for the J.R. Simplot company, a big player in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
“I was curious to see if this is kind of set up a framework for your feed ingredients regulation.”
In other words, will the federal government look next at what farm animals eat?