North Carolina Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler hosted the 7th Annual Food Safety Forum on Monday at Research Triangle Park's Sheraton Imperial Hotel. This year's theme was the Implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act that was signed earlier this year.
"You know, we will be. The implementation of this act is going to be a very big change. The FDA has some very broad authorities now, that they did not have before. And in some cases it is going to reach all the way down to the farm level, basically with GAP certification and even inspections. So we in North Carolina want to make sure that our people who are dealing with this issue are educated and that they understand the implication of what's coming. And right now we're working with FDA on the state's partnership side of the implementation which is going to be very, very important."
SFN: Now, have you found that most producers have been fairly accepting of this, especially since we've had several food recalls here in just the last five years that have really affected producers at the producer level.
"Well, you know the thing about a recall, it does affect the markets for agricultural products. And that's the reason that I say that food safety is an agricultural issue. Anytime you have a recall, you destroy the market and it takes a long time to recover. So, we're hopeful that the producers will understand that if everybody does their very best at the farm level to implement the types of practices we need for a safe food supply, then we're all going to be better off. I know larger producers have dealt with this for quite some time. Some of our producers even export product and they understand these practices that have to be followed to be able to satisfy buyers. And that's what this is going to be about. The buyer is going to be the person, the entity, that enforces whether you're involved in GAPs or not because if you don't, they're not going to buy it."
SFN: Another general consensus is that the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices will eventually be driven by purchasers who will demand GAP certification:
"It is going to be market driven. I don't there's any question about that and it's about liability. Let's go ahead and clarify, that companies don't want to take the liability for a recall, they don't want to take the liability for a public health problem. So, everybody being involved from the farm level all the way to the consumer lessens the possiblity that we're going to have a problem."
This is the seventh year of Food Safety forum...
"This is a wonderful crowd and a lot of engaged people. I think that the size of the crowds that we've had at these forums has mirrored the interest in food safety over the years. And I'm just glad that we had the foresight in North Carolina to put an emphasis on food safety and be in a position to influence this implementation and make sure there's common sense involved in the implementation."