Food safety in growing fresh produce is not optional

All fresh produce growers need to consider food safety as part of their growing and handling operations. Like large growers, small growers should make changes to continuously improve food safety, despite being exempt from food safety laws.

Irrespective of the size of the farm, foodborne illness outbreaks don’t seem to discriminate. Growers are probably aware that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) contains an exemption for small farmers. What growers may not realize is that this exemption is declared void for a small farm if an outbreak occurs that is traced back to that farm.

In the event of an outbreak linked to a small farm, all the rules that apply to larger farms under FSMA will also apply to that small farm. This is why it is important that all farms, irrespective of size, routinely consider food safety in their operations and make changes to continuously improve food safety throughout their growing and handling operations.

In the event of an actual recall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would require an FDA Recall Survey form to be filled out. Much of the information required for the Recall Survey form is contained in a typical food safety manual, so simply keeping a manual current will provide the necessary information.

If you are having difficulty writing a food safety manual or tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact Michigan State University Extension’s Agrifood Safety Work Group at or 517-788-4292. You can also obtain a hard copy of the FDA Recall Survey by asking for it either via e-mail or phone.

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