FDA Considering Extending Timelines for FSMA Water Testing Requirements

  • Sep 15, 2017

Based on input from the produce industry, including the California Avocado Commission (Commission), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has re-opened the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule-making process to consider amending the Produce Safety and the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rules (Produce Safety Rule). The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on September 13, 2017 and has a 60-day comment period.

If finalized, the rule would extend the compliance dates for the agricultural water provisions of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule by an additional two to four years for produce (other than sprouts). The proposed extension is meant to provide FDA with the opportunity to review and revise the FSMA Produce Safety Rule’s agricultural water standards based on upcoming stakeholder input to ensure these standards enhance public health and are feasible and practicable for farmers to implement.

FDA’s new proposed agricultural water compliance date for the largest farms is January 26, 2022. Small farms and very small farms would have until January 26, 2023 and January 26, 2024, respectively (definitions below).

To be clear, if the proposed rule is approved, growers will still be required to demonstrate compliance with all other FSMA mandates according to the following dates:

  • Very small businesses, those with more than $25,000 but no more than $250,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three-year period: Four years (January 26, 2020).
  • Small businesses, those with more than $250,000 but no more than $500,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three-year period: Three years (January 26, 2019).
  • All other farms: Two years (January 26, 2018).

FDA does not expect on-farm inspections to occur until 2019. However, as previously stated, farms will still be expected to meet all produce safety requirements set by the Produce Safety Rule for produce (other than sprouts), except those related to agricultural water, by their original compliance dates. This means January 2018 for the largest produce farms.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will work as FDA’s state partner and is in the process of determining how best to enforce FSMA. CDFA is developing a plan to conduct industry education on the FSMA requirements and likely inspection process, prior to the initiation of on-farm inspections. The Commission is part of those discussions. One possibility for industry outreach includes On-Farm Readiness Reviews. These On-Farm Readiness Reviews would be conducted by a team of state officials, cooperative extension agents and FDA produce experts that provide farmers with an assessment of their “readiness” to meet the new FSMA Produce Safety rule requirements. If you are interested in learning more about possibly participating in an On-Farm-Readiness Review please send an email to cac.iaf@avocado.org.

The Commission will continue to provide information concerning FSMA and working with growers to ensure FSMA compliance. If you have not become food safety certified, you are encouraged to review the Commission’s Food Safety program and talk with your handler.

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