Comment period on supplemental produce safety rule open ‘til Dec. 14
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The Food and Drug Administration has opened a comment period on a proposed supplemental rule to regulations that affect some 35,000 fruit and vegetable growers nationwide.
The proposed supplemental rule goes with the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in January 2013. The comment period on this supplemental rule is open until Dec. 14. The final regulations are expected to go into effect next summer. (See: www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm334114.htm)
The proposed supplement includes the issues of microbes in water sources, use of manure on crops and animal intrusions on produce farms.
“It’s important for fruit and vegetable farmers to get up to speed on Food Safety Modernization Act and this proposed supplemental rule,” said Steve Seideman, extension food processing specialist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Farms, depending on size, will have two to four years to comply.
Among other things, the regulations will require fruit and vegetable growers attend a Produce Safety Alliance workshop and have a written food safety plan in effect.
Seideman said the Produce Safety Alliance will be conducting train-the-trainer workshops in the eight largest fruit-growing states next spring.
At the heart of the regulations is GAP, or Good Agricultural Practices, aimed at reducing microbial risks in fruits and vegetables by developing a comprehensive extension and education program for growers and packers.
“The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is currently working with Oklahoma State University to conduct a joint training session with the Produce Safety Alliance late spring or early summer 2015,” he said.
This joint workshop will show producers the elements of writing a food safety plan. Seideman also has templates for these plans available for download at www.uark.edu/ua/gap/.
“The plans aren’t new for some growers who currently undergo third-party Good Agricultural Practices audits,” he said. These third-party audits are extremely important to a vendor’s bottom line and could mean the difference between being distributed or dropped by large chain food stores.
The regulations are layered and compliance date depends on whether the farm has more than $500,000 in produce sales; $250,000-$500,000 in sales; or between $25,000-$250,000.
For more information about food safety, visit www.uaex.edu/life-skills-wellness/food-safety/handling/ or contact your county extension office.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Mary Hightower
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service