ROCKVILLE, Md. (FNS) -- The Food and Drug Administration's proposed guidelines for growing microbe-free vegetables and fruit are getting a nod of approval from the produce industry.
Based on earlier discussions with the agency, industry officials were concerned the guidelines might be too prescriptive, telling, for example, how specific vegetables must be cultivated, harvested, handled and packed. Instead, the agency is offering an overall food-safety blueprint for produce farmers, as well as processors, to follow.
Stacey Zawel, director of scientific and regulatory affairs at the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, Arlington, Va., said flexibility is particularly welcome since the guidelines are expected to become the basis for contractual language between suppliers and their retail or wholesale customers.
"What we need is a broad-based document," Zawel said. "Strawberries are grown differently in California than they are in New York state."
Released April 13, the voluntary guidelines are part of President Clinton's call for a review of the safety of domestically grown and imported produce. The proposal is open for comment through June 29 and final guidelines are expected to be released by year's end.
The guidelines focus on areas of cultivation and processing where contamination can occur. Areas covered include water quality, worker hygiene, field and facility sanitation, manure management and transportation.