Don’t wait for the water to clear regarding FSMA water testing requirements

Take the time to learn and align your current practices with those currently finalized in the Food Safety and Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule water section.

Beets getting rinsed

There is a lot of uncertainty among fresh produce growers with regards to the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule water section, what needs to be done and when exactly things need to be done by. As watchers of on-farm produce safety regulations are aware, Subpart E of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule (agricultural water, other than sprouts) is under enforcement discretion during a rule making for compliance date extension and an associated FDA review. There are still a lot of unanswered questions that contribute to this uncertainty. The FDA’s reason for the proposed compliance date extension was “to address questions about the practical implementation of compliance with certain provisions and to consider how we might further reduce the regulatory burden or increase flexibility while continuing to achieve our regulatory objectives, in keeping with the Administration's policies.”

It is easy to dwell on uncertainty and let it prompt inaction. It is important, however, to keep two critical things in mind. First, the proposed extension to compliance dates is just that: proposed. In the meantime, enforcement discretion for water-related rules (other than sprouts) apply. If the proposed compliance date extension is never finalized, and if the FDA decides after their review to make no changes, the law stands as it is now. In other words, everything that was published and finalized in the current rule, including dates for compliance, testing frequencies and water system inspections, is the law unless new rules are proposed and finalized.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are often key similarities between what was under review and what ends up being enacted. Learning all you can about what is the current water regulation will likely pay off if and when a “new” rule gets finalized. The big message from all of this is don’t wait. Don’t wait to start water testing. Don’t wait to go to a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training. Don’t wait to sign up for an On-farm Readiness Review.

There will always be uncertainty about some things in the water rule, but letting that uncertainty paralyze you into inaction is a recipe for disaster. Taking time now to learn and align your current practices with those currently finalized will likely mean less stress later.

If you have specific questions about FSMA water regulations as they relate to the Produce Safety Rule or have difficulty performing one, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu 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 if 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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