PILOT MOUNTAIN — A new law being tweaked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will have little effect on local producers supplying produce and vegetables to Pilot Mountain Pride, officials said Monday.
The legislation, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act, has been in the works since 2010, said Wythe Morris, retired extension agent and consultant with Pilot Mountain Pride.
The Act is being touted as the first major overhaul of the nation’s food safety practices since 1938, and it includes new regulations for produce farms and for facilities that process food for people to eat. It will place new guidelines on producers, including a required annual audit of their production practices.
“It came to the forefront during food safety incidents involving peanuts,” he said. “Regulators found that less than 5 percent of the peanuts were being inspected after salmonella was discovered in peanut butter.”
While it could take a couple more years before the Act becomes law, Morris said the new regulations are some of the most sweeping changes to food production and handling in United States history.
“This will implement food safety protocols, including inspections, from the farm to fork,” he said.
But many local producers who sell fruits of the field to Pilot Mountain Pride will be exempt, either because they’re small producers or because they have already been certified in the U.S.D.A.-sponsored Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which means they’re already in compliance with the proposed legislation.
“Farms that comply with GAP are already in compliance with the law,” Morris said. “And all farmers to sell to Pilot Mountain Pride are either GAP trained or GAP certified.”
And the small size of many producers also plays a role.
According to the proposed legislation being tweaked by the FDA, farmers who sell less than $25,000 a year will be exempt altogether.
“Most of the farmers in Surry County are selling less than $25,000 a year, so for them, the GAP training is good and we encourage them to do it, but they won’t be subjected to the federal government audit,” Morris said. “And I think as farms grow and become more successful, they’re going to need to realize that these new regulations are going to be a part of their operation and a part of the cost of doing business.”
The GAP training means many farmers would only have to call and request an audit if they grow large enough to be subject to the new regulations.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.