Some in Produce Industry Oppose FDA's Security Guidelines

LOS ANGELES - The produce industry is showing its concern for regulations that might be considered by Congress as part of food security legislation, the Los Angeles Times reports. In recent weeks, fresh-produce shippers have lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to exclude them from its new guidelines urging tamper-resistant packaging and other security measures.

Critics say the proposed measures are unnecessary, ineffective and costly, and will ultimately increase prices for consumers. "It's not because we don't care about food security," said Kathy Means, a vice president of the Produce Marketing Association, according to the newspaper. "Companies marketing fresh produce are acutely aware of the need to protect the food supply, and many have already taken appropriate measures."

The FDA's advisory includes measures for screening employees and suppliers, as well as conducting recalls. In addition, the agency is considering urging tamper-resistant packaging on all items, including fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle. The Produce Marketing Association says this type of packaging would be devastating for fruit and vegetable shippers because it wouldn't allow produce to "breathe" and would raise temperatures, which would encourage rot.

Produce groups also are opposing measures urging bar-code stickers or other means of tracing individual pieces of produce to the field where they were grown. They say such a system would be expensive and hard to develop.

Because the FDA's guidelines could be used by Congress in drafting food security regulations, all sectors of the food industry have weighed in to protect their own economic interests in recent weeks.

Much of the FDA's guidelines were derived from precautions that large processed-food companies already were taking to protect themselves and their very visible brand names, said Peter Cleary of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, according to the newspaper.
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