The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold a listening session in Maine regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) on Monday, August 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Augusta Armory at 179 Western Avenue.

"The produce safety rule will mean big changes for Maine produce growers and packers," says Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Commissioner Walter Whitcomb, who will host the session. "This is an important opportunity to hear from the Food and Drug Administration and offer comments."

Michael Taylor, FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Foods & Veterinary Medicine, will provide information about the proposed rule at the August 19 meeting.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed in January 2011 is the most comprehensive reform of food regulation in more than 70 years. A key component of the bill is a mandate to shift food safety efforts from reaction to prevention. In January 2013, FDA proposed two FSMA rules - preventive controls for human food and standards for produce safety - and extended the public comment period through September 16, 2013.

The act directs the FDA to establish science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of raw agricultural commodities. In response to the directive from Congress, FDA proposed the Produce Safety Rule, which focuses on measures that produce farmers and packers should take to prevent the contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables. The rule proposes five sets of standards designed to address significant routes of microbial contamination of produce. The five sets of standards are: (1) agricultural water; (2) biological soil amendments; (3) employee health and hygiene; (4) animal intrusion into growing areas; and (5) equipment, tools and buildings.

On January 4, 2013, the FDA released the proposed rule for public comment, and Maine's delegation urged the FDA to hold a listening session in Maine to hear from farmers.

Questions about the listening session can be directed to the Department's Quality Assurance and Regulations Division at 287-3841. For those not able not attend the listening session, comments can be made directly to the FDA at www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm26168.