The overall goal of the FSMA is to enable the FDA to better protect public health by helping ensure the safety and security of the food supply. The “FSMA enables [the FDA] to focus more on preventing food safety problems rather than relying primarily on reacting to problems after they occur….In addition, the law gives [the FDA] important new tools to better ensure the safety of imported foods,” which constitute about 15 percent of the U.S. food supply, including “80 percent of our seafood, 50 percent of our fresh fruit, and 20 percent of our vegetables.”

In the space of this column, it is impossible to cover this regulation in any detail, so we encourage both farmers and consumers to consider downloading the rule and reading it. While it contains its share of technical detail, many will find information that is of interest.

Of particular interest to farmers, especially those who engage in on-farm processing of agricultural products, is the discussion in the rule of which on-farm facilities fall under the regulation (covered facilities) and which are exempt. In making that decision the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a science-based risk analysis to determine which on-farm facilities to exempt from the requirements in the proposed rule.

Farmers engaged in on-farm processing of agricultural products will want to read the rule (https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2013-00125.pdf) carefully and take the opportunity to comment on the rule within the 120-day comment period.

Likewise, consumers will find it an informative slog to make their way through the lengthy rule. As with farmers, they may want to afford themselves of the opportunity to submit comments within the 120-day comment period. Procedures for submitting comments can be found within the rules.

While none of us welcomes increasing complexity in our lives and businesses, these regulations lay out a path by which we can reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. To the extent that they achieve this goal, all of us will breathe a little easier when we sit down at the family table.

Daryll E. Ray holds the Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, and is the Director of UT’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC). Harwood D. Schaffer is a Research Assistant Professor at APAC. (865) 974-7407; Fax: (865) 974-7298; dray@utk.edu and hdschaffer@utk.edu; http://www.agpolicy.org.