December 21, 2016
The implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act will have an impact on some of the growers who raise specialty crops, especially produce for farmers markets and retail outlets, members of the Kansas Rural Center were told at a Farm and Food Conference in November.
The main requirement, a one-day certified training program, will be available to growers at various times during the coming year, and will be offered by both Kansas State University and the University of Missouri, said Marlin Bates, with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
The FSMA final rule was released in November of 2015 and focuses on the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce to prevent foodborne illness.
It is the first-ever government regulation for the production, harvest and handling of fruits and vegetables and has similar requirements to the USDA Good Agricultural Practices rule.
"GAPs will be updated to match the FSMA requirements," Bates told Rural Center members. "If you pass a GAPs audit, you will be compliant with the rule, but you will still need to take the one-day FSMA training."
He said that there has been a lot of fear and concern about the rule, but it does not require growers to have an on-farm food safety plan, and most Kansas growers will be exempt because they don't have enough income from fruit and produce to meet the minimum threshold of the law.
The rule does not apply to produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity, produce commodities that the FDA has identified as rarely consumed raw such as pumpkins, food grains, produce for personal or on-farm consumption, or farms that have an average annual value of produce sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less.
The rule also exempts larger growers if the majority of the food they grow is sold directly to a "qualified end user" but does subject them to some recordkeeping requirements.
Bates told the group that some of the concerns that prompted the rule include raw manure application and the interval to harvest. The standard has been 90 to 120 days, but the new rule says nine months, although that interval is subject to further study.
It also requires testing of water that comes into direct contact with produce after harvest to ensure that it has no detectable E coli present.
The Good Ag Practices program is administered by the USDA Ag Marketing Services and includes a voluntary third-party audit verification, which is usually AMS.
GAPs is not a regulation, but rather a quality assurance tool.
"It works in all directions," Bates said. "Being GAPs-compliant is a way for you let distributors know that your farm has good food safety standards."
Producers whose markets require that they have food safety certification need to implement a food safety plan for their farm.
A food safety plan focuses on such things as working health and hygiene, handwashing, ensuring that sick employees or fieldworkers do not come in contact with food, ensuring that the water used for washing produce is tested to make sure it is clean, preventing cross contamination of food, ensuring that food subjected to flooding does not enter the food chain, ensuring the correct handling of manure and providing education on correctly producing compost.
"Any compost that is not produced under very well-regulated circumstances should be considered manure and handled as such," Bates warned.
During harvest, growers need to watch for — and train employees to watch for — contamination sources such as bird droppings.
"If you spot bird droppings, don't harvest it," he advised.
Harvest tools and storage containers need to be cleaned and sanitized, and produce needs to be chilled as quickly as possible before storage.
Bates said more information about the Food Safety Rule implementation will be coming out over the next several weeks.
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