Three things to know about FDA’s new produce safety rule

The produce safety rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act goes into effect Jan. 26, 2016.

Growers may have a lot of questions about the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Rule now that it is final. In an effort to start the conversation, this FAQ sheet can help.

Which produce falls under the rule?

All produce that is not explicitly exempt from the produce safety rule is considered “covered.” If your farm grows some types of produce that are covered and others that are exempt, you will be expected to comply with the produce safety rule for all of the covered produce that you grow.

FDA has deemed the following produce “rarely consumed raw” and thus exempt from the rule:

Asparagus, Beets (garden varieties, roots and tops), Cashews, Sour Cherries, Chickpeas, Cocoa Beans, Coffee Beans, Collards, Sweet Corn, Cranberries, Dates, Dill (seeds and weed), Dry beans (includes: black, great Northern, kidney, lima, navy, pinto), Eggplants, Figs, Ginger, Hazelnuts, Horseradish, Lentils, Okra, Peanuts, Pecans, Peppermint, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Sugar Beets, Sweet Potatoes, Water Chestnuts, and Winter Squash

Other exempt crops include grains and oilseeds.

Some farms that grow nonexempt produce may still be exempt from the produce rule for other reasons. This flow chart from the FDA can help you figure out if your farm is required to comply with the produce safety rule.

What is regulated under the rule?

The goal of the produce safety rule is to prevent food safety risks in the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fresh produce. The rule sets standards for personnel qualifications and training; health and hygiene; agricultural water; biological soil amendments of animal origin; domesticated and wild animals; growing, harvesting, packing and holding activities; equipment, tools and building; and recordkeeping.

What is the timeline for implementation?

The rule is effective beginning Jan. 26, 2016, but farms will need to be in full compliance at different times depending on their operations. The chart above provides an at-a-glance summary of compliance dates.

With the exception of sprout growers, all growers have two additional years after their first compliance date to be in full compliance with the regulations on water. Sprout growers must be in full compliance with the rule between 2017 and 2019 depending on their size.

Exempt growers must have records on file supporting their eligibility as an exempt farm by Jan. 26, 2016. These growers must also review their status annually and maintain records of this review and their continued eligibility.

Whether you have one year or five before you need to comply, now is the time to start reviewing your food safety practices. For assistance, contact a Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Educator.

Michigan State University’s Community Food Systems work team supports the development of local food systems in Michigan. To connect with a local foods educator near you, visit their website or call 1-888-678-3464. 

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