Maintaining Food Safety Standards While Qualified Exempt

, Upper Peninsula Produce Safety Technician

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Qualified Exempt farms, provided they keep the required documents to prove their exemption, are granted a pass on routine inspections for the FSMA Produce Safety Rule (PSR) – but this is not a free pass on food safety practices. In the event of a foodborne illness, outbreak, or other cause for concern traced back to farm, even a Qualified Exempt farm will be subject to an investigation from the state’s Department of Agriculture.

Qualified Exempt farms are still covered by the PSR. As such, exempt farms are expected to maintain the minimum standards of food safety outlined in the Rule and keep track of produce sales just like all other covered farms. An annual review of produce sales, signed by the farm owner or food safety supervisor, will verify the farm’s exemption eligibility if more than half of all produce sales (averaged over three years) are sold to a qualified end user and gross food sales total less than $500,000 annually. In addition, Qualified Exempt farms must label all produce with the farm name and business address at the point of sale -whether that be on a label affixed to the produce packaging, displayed on a sign or placard nearby, or other means of identifying the produce.

Reaching out to the nearest Produce Safety Technician can help a farm foster a culture of food safety, create food safety policies and plans, and address risks to food safety on the farm, regardless of a farm’s exemption status. Technicians can also offer guidance on the labeling and record keeping requirements of claiming Qualified Exempt status. Being proactive, implementing safe food practices, and asking for assistance when needed is a farm’s best bet for avoiding foodborne illnesses. All assistance provided by Produce Safety Technicians is free and confidential.