March 26, 2015
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is changing the way they do certain on-farm visits, according to a recent Q&A published to the agency’s website. FDA is authorized to do what’s called “surveillance sampling” of certain products to test for bacteria and assess whether the preventive approach to food safety is working. FDA routinely does this sampling in grocery stores and manufacturing facilities, and recently began carrying this practice out on farms, including farms that also do some processing activities, like cheese-makers.
NSAC and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) heard from farmers that these visits were being carried out in a way that was confusing, intimidating, or simply awkward, largely because the FDA personnel that would arrive on farms to take samples came unexpectedly, in uniform, and often without sufficient cash to cover the cost the samples they would take.
NSAC and PASA brought this to the attention of the FDA and, in response, FDA is adapting their protocol. As explained in the Q&A, FDA personnel coming onto farms or on-farm facilities for surveillance sampling will provide at least 24 hours notice to ensure that the farmer, or other appropriate person, is on-site and available.
In that phone call, FDA personnel will explain that they will be arriving in uniform, to avoid the intimidation factor that could result from a uniformed officer arriving on a farm without warning. The FDA official will also ask about the cost of the product that they will be collecting and the number of units they expect to collect, to see if there is sufficient supply available, and ensure that they have the right amount of cash on hand at the time of the visit.
We appreciate the agency’s prompt response to these concerns, and the sincere effort to adjust agency protocol to ensure as smooth an encounter as possible for all parties involved.
Any farmer who experiences a surveillance sampling visit from FDA is encouraged to share that experience with NSAC and PASA, so we can continue to monitor the situation and work with the FDA to ensure this change in protocol is effective, and helps builds trust between FDA and the agriculture community.
Categories: Food Safety