The Food Safety Modernization Act – Produce Safety Rule (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011. It sets new standards for food handling across the entire food chain with rules for businesses ranging from farms and food processors to food shippers, importers, retailers, and others. It is the first federal food safety law that includes specific rules for produce farms.
FSMA represents a change in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approach to ensuring a safe U.S. food supply. Rather than reacting to instances of food borne illness or contamination, FSMA shifts the focus toward preventing contamination in food. All farms regardless of size, location, or commodity grown, can reduce food safety risk.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI) is working with FDA through a cooperative agreemnt to advance efforts for a nationally integrated food safety system. ADAI will achieve this through the education and outreach, planning and implementing our Produce Safety Program to encourgae the safe production of fresh fruits and vegetables. ADAI will work to promote understanding and compliance with the requirements of FDA's "Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption" (commonly referred to as the Produce Safety Rule). Key elements of the Produce Safety Rule:
- Worker Heath and Hygiene sets requirements for reducing food safety risks with good training and appropriate hygiene practices for farmers and employees who are in contact with produce.
- Agricultural Water must meet specific water quality standards depending on the water source and how it is used on the farm. Irrigation water and post-harvesting handling water (including water used for washing produce, hands and contact surfaces) must meet specific testing criteria for generic E.coli. Required testing frequency depends on your specific water quality, source, and use.
- Biological Soil Amendments sectiond efined how raw manure and stabilized comports may be used as soil amendments to minimize the risk of contaminating produce. At this time, the recommendation is to follow the National Organic Program Standards for raw manure.
- Domesticated and wild Animals section recognizes that animals are a part of farms but requires farmers to have crop monitoring and corrective action practices to minimize contamination or damage to crops caused by animals.
- Equipment, Tools and Buildings
section addresses storage, maintenance, and sanitation of surfaces that can come into contact with produce. For example, things to consider include hand washing facilities, packing sheds, tractors and harvesting bins.
Record Keeping -
FDA has included specific recordkeeping criteria related to different parts of the rule to increase accountability, traceability, and transparency of practices. Sales records, water-testing results, stabilized compost treatments, and equipment cleaning schedules are some of the activities that may need documented recordkeeping.
The final rule includes new requirements to help prevent the contamination of sprouts, which have been frequently associated with foodborne illness outbreaks. Sprouts are especially vulnerable to dangerous microbes because of the warm, moist and nutrient-rich conditions needed to grow them.
Click here to learn the specifics about the standards listed above and how they might apply to your operation.