MESA COUNTY, Colo.-
An estimated 3,000 people die annually from some type of foodborne illnesses. The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama to help prevent outbreaks from occurring.
This past January two major regulations were proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which would enforce even stricter measures for farmers and manufacturers to comply with.
It's referred to as a common sense law that will shift the focus of food outbreaks from reactive to preventative.
"The first major change in food safety laws within the nation in 70 years, I think, speaks to the aspect that it was overdue and needed," said Jeff Lawrence, director of the division of environmental health and sustainability with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"Ultimately it will help people to look at their operations and do a better job of farming and a healthier job of farming," said Larry Traubel, farmer of 20 years.
Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment say national data shows about 48 million people report foodborne illnesses annually. Hospitalizing 128,000 and killing about 3,000 each year.
"Within the cantaloupe outbreak that occurred in Colorado, Colorado had 8 deaths associated with that, while nationally, there were 30 deaths associated with it," said Lawrence.
“We welcome the valid common sense changes to procedures in food safety that immolate from these events," said Charlie Talbott, president of Talbott's Mountain Gold.
The first rule proposed for produce: Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption includes: inspecting water, methods and time span of applying manure, using hygienic practices, having a waiting period from animals grazing in an area that produce is harvested from, managing equipment tools and buildings, and requiring specific training for farmers.
(Agricultural Water, biological soil Amendments of Animal Origin, Health and Hygiene, Domesticated and Wild Animals, Equipment, tools and buildings, Training.)
"[Those regulations proposed] In response to some outbreaks with produce over the last several years with the spinach, tomatoes, and other produce," said Lawrence.
The second rule proposed includes Preventive Controls for Human Food: Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food, Including: identifying foreseeable hazards for food. Monitoring preventive controls, correcting problems and minimizing them from reoccurring, verifying preventive controls are implemented and effect and require facilities to keep a written food safety plan.
(Hazard Analysis, Preventive Controls, Monitoring, Corrective Actions, Verification, Recordkeeping.)
"Base principals that have been utilized across food production industries for decades," said Lawrence.
Farmers say they agree with these procedures, but they say it will no doubt, bring on more work.
"Create more work, more costs, more investments, some of the new labeling requirements that are now in place we now have to invest in; hardware and software and new procedures," said Talbott.
Which in turn may increase the cost of those fresh fruits we enjoy so much.
"In the long term, in the long view, in order to remain viable, a grower has to recoup these additional costs in the price of their products," said Talbott.
Farmers are concerned about a portion of the act which states regulations will vary depending on the size of the farm and the amount of items sold, along with the terms and dates of compliance.
"If it's about food safety, it's about food safety, no matter whether you sell one box or a million boxes. If it's about politics, then I think it stands a little more scrutiny," said Talbott.
"It could likely as happen on a small farm as it could on a big corporate farm," said Traubel.
These farmers say they've had a clean record since they started decades ago. They say nothing is more important than providing healthy food, but want to make sure the proposed regulations serve a real purpose.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is allowing public comment on the proposed rules. The FDA will convene three public meetings regarding the two proposed rules in Washington DC, Chicago IL, and Portland.
To find out more information on how to comment head to this link. click here.