March 12, 2014
Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended the comment period on the scoping process for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is part of the agency’s process for developing new produce safety regulations. The original deadline for submitting comments on the environmental impact scoping process was November 15, 2013, but FDA extended the deadline for the public scoping period to March 15, 2014. Now, the deadline has been extended once more to April 18, 2014, to allow FDA to hold a public meeting, where stakeholders are invited to give oral presentations and again submit comments on the substance of the scoping process.
NSAC submitted comments on the scoping notice in November that emphasized the deficiency in the evaluation of all direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts associated with the draft produce safety regulations, the importance of evaluating mitigation measures and alternatives, and potential environmental impacts of the proposed standards.
FDA’s notice on the extension of the comment period includes important information about which parts of the Produce Rule the agency is planning to analyze for their potential environmental impacts, including the microbial standard for agricultural water, the application intervals for biological soil amendments such as manure and compost, practices around animal grazing and intrusion, and the scope of the proposed rule. The notice also includes important information about the alternatives to those standards that FDA is considering. For each of the issues, FDA proposes 3-5 potential alternatives that it is considering. FDA is asking the public to comment on those alternatives and identify other potential issues of the EIS process.
Those alternatives provide insight into the range of options that the agency is considering for certain standards it will re-propose for public comment later this year.
Once FDA completes the EIS scoping process, it will release a draft EIS for public comment, likely later this year. NSAC will continue to monitor and provide comments to the EIS process with the aim of ensuring that the new produce safety regulations incorporate important environmental considerations.