UACES Facebook Arkansas Produce and Farm Food Safety | Who needs to comply with the produce safety rules?
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Arkansas Produce Safety

Keeping up with regulations to ensure your farm is using best practices can be daunting. Extension can provide fundamental, science-based, on-farm food safety knowledge to fresh fruit and vegetable farmers, packers, regulatory personnel and others interested in the safety of fresh produce in Arkansas.

 

What are the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Produce Safety Rule?

The FSMA is a federal act that requires producers and processors of fresh fruits and vegetables to implement certain controls to prevent contamination of our nation’s food system. The act authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish regulations for the production of fresh fruits and vegetables (The Produce Safety Rule) and regulations for processors (The Preventive Controls Rule). 

The Produce Safety Rule (PSR), outlined in Section 105 of FSMA, establishes science-based minimum standards for safe production and harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables. These standards are based on a foundation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). The rule is divided into several parts, including standards for:

  • Worker health, hygiene, and training
  • Agricultural water, both for production and post-harvest uses
  • Biological soil amendments (e.g., compost, manure)
  • Domesticated and wild animals
  • Equipment, tools, buildings, and sanitation
  • Production of sprouts
strawberry in basket

Does the Produce Safety Rule apply to me?

The Produce Safety Rule went into effect in January 2018. View the September 2017 Updated Guidance Report.

If you produce fruits and vegetables that are sold and then consumed raw (i.e lettuce, apples, etc), and you gross more than $25,000 (adjusted for inflation) per year, the short answer is: Yes.

Rules for when producers must be in compliance with the new regulations, including participating in specialized training and when or if they may be inspected, vary based on the size of the operation.

The Small Entity Compliance Guide (SECG) provides information that can help small and very small businesses understand how the requirements of the PSR apply to them. Specifically, the SECG can help farmers determine whether they are eligible for a qualified exemption, which would modify the requirements they are subject to under the PSR. The SECG can also help them understand those modified requirements. Even producers who are exempt from the PSR should follow basic food safety rules as a part of good farm management practices.

mixed leaf lettuce

How is the FSMA Produce Safety Rule different from a GAP audit?

Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) are voluntary audits for produce operations administered by the USDA. The basic difference between these two systems is that FSMA is a federally mandated program growers will be required to comply with, whereas GAP is a market driven program that is not required by law. GAP certification is often a requirement for selling to markets like grocery stores or regional distributors. Both systems share many of the same principals, but they are not identical. Growers who have GAP certification are not automatically compliant with FSMA.

Experience with GAP certification however will likely help you to be well on your way to compliance with FSMA. One unique difference is that FSMA will require attendance at an FDA approved food safety training course.

woman holding basket of veggies shopping at a farmer's market

How can I get help to understand how this relates to my farm?

Once you have completed the PSA Grower Training, you can sign-up for a free, confidential review of your Farm Safety Program with the Extension Produce Safety Team. For this review, called On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR), members from our team will visit your farm to observe and discuss your food safety practices. The OFRR will reiterate the information taught in the Grower Training and offer an educational approach to the key risk areas identified. We will provide feedback and recommendations for your farm food safety practices. For more information on the OFRR visit, check out Preparing for an OFRR.

For more information or to request an On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR), please contact Julia Fryer at (501) 671-2181 or jfryer@uaex.edu

Once growers that are subject to the rule have completed the PSA Grower Training and their OFRR (if requested), they are then ready for their inspection from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture which will put them in full compliance with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

box of peaches in field

The Preventive Controls Rule

The Preventive Controls Rule is another component of the FSMA. It applies to food processing facilities, including fresh cut fruit and vegetable operations. Specific rules and regulations designed to prevent contamination of the nations food supply at the processor level is the goal of these new regulations. More information is available on the FDA website and in the links below as to who must comply with these rules and what the new regulations require. 

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