Compost recordkeeping: What do I really need to have?

Learn which compost records are required for Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance and understand what you need with regards to audits.

From an agronomic perspective, compost is unmatched as a soil builder and can greatly contribute to overall plant and soil health. From a food safety perspective, compost can be a hazard, especially if made with animal byproducts. Properly composting animal byproducts is essential to ensure a reduced risk of contamination. Improper composting can result in applying a product that could pose a food safety risk.

One of the big sticking points concerning compost and food safety compliance are maintain the required records while either producing or using these products on a crop. For Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance, bacteriological testing of purchased compost is not required. When using purchased compost on a crop that is third party audited, verify with your auditor what records you will need from the supplier to ensure you meet audit requirements.

Purchased compost must have a Certificate of Conformance provided by the seller at least annually. According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, the Certificate of Conformance must contain:

  • Assurance that the process is scientifically validated.
  • Assurance that the compost wasn’t contaminated from making it to its arrival on-farm.

Compost made on the farm is acceptable to use under the FSMA, provided you have a record outlining the scientific validity of the process used to make the compost and records such as time, temperature and turnings showing the process was followed on the farm.

If you have difficulty tailoring GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) to your farm or understanding the ins and outs of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, contact the Agrifood Safety Work Group at or 517-788-4292.

Funding for this article was made possible in part by the Food and Drug Administration through grant PAR-16-137. The views expressed in the written materials do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does any mention of trade names, commercial practices or organization imply endorsement by the United States Government.

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