Producers asked to complete survey on Produce Rule

 

The North Central Regional Center for FSMA Training, Extension and Technical Assistance (NCR FSMA), wants to know your needs in order to help you comply with the Produce Safety Rules.

For fresh produce growers who will be required to comply with FSMA Produce Safety Rules we are asking you to complete two short surveys at different times. This, the first survey, consists of very general information and will be completed by growers before November 30, 2016. It will take about 15 minutes to complete.

Your inputs are needed to develop useful and relevant materials for producers like you!

We recognize your time is valuable so as a token of appreciation, we will hold drawings after each survey round and award to three participants a $50 gift card. Note entry in the drawing will require that you provide your name and contact information.  There will be an optional link at the end of the survey for you to enter your information.  It is NOT tied to your responses. Click here to access the survey.

FSMA Clarification is Good News

 

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) welcomed the issuance of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) final rule amending the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements for food facility registration this week. The local and regional farm and food community has long awaited this final rule, which provides much-needed clarity for direct marketing farms and food enterprises, preventing undue regulation of these businesses.

By redefining the term “retail food establishments”, the FDA provides clear distinctions between which farms and related businesses are subject to “food facility” registration under the Preventive Controls Rule, and which are not. Thanks to this new language, farmers and small food enterprises primarily selling value-added products directly to consumers can now rest assured that they are not subject to food facility registration requirements or regulations.

“For family farmers, one of the most concerning things about the new FSMA rules has been this confusion over classification of farms and registration requirements,” said NSAC Policy Specialist Sophia Kruszewski. “Conflicting and misleading guidance on farms that do or do not qualify as retail food establishments has been the order of the day for over a decade. Congress settled the matter in FSMA in 2010. We are pleased to see FDA finalize this long overdue clarification, and on first glance are optimistic that the final rule reflects the intent of Congress to shield local food producers who directly market to consumers from ill-fitting federal requirements.”

In FSMA, Congress clarified that sales through direct-to-consumer sales platforms like roadside stands, farmers markets, and community-supported agriculture (CSAs) operations were included within the exemption for retail food establishments. This amendment was sponsored by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and former Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and was strongly backed by NSAC.

The clarification serves two important purposes. First, it reinforces that CSAs, farmers markets, roadside stands, and other direct-to-consumer operations that sell the majority of their food directly to consumers are not food facilities, do not have to register with FDA as facilities, and therefore are not subject to the Preventive Controls Rule.

Second, it clarifies that the location of the direct sales does not trigger the facility definition – for example, delivering a CSA box to an off-farm location where customers could pick up their boxes would not make that location a “facility”. Neither, as the final rule makes clear, would use of an off-farm commercial kitchen to process value-added goods.

 

(From news reports)

Does the FSMA Produce Rule apply to me?

Growers may have a lot of questions about the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Rule now that it is final.

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.

The rule was effective beginning Jan. 26, 2016, but farms will need to be in full compliance at different times depending on their operations. Michigan State University Extension has created this chart to show compliance deadlines for different-sized farms.

Click here to find out if your farm is subject to the produce rule, exempt or qualified exempt.

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 an Iowa GAPs team member.

FSMA and GAP are not the same

With the advent of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we now have a uniform minimum standard of food safety that the overwhelming majority of fresh produce growers must adhere to. The key with FSMA is that it is a minimum requirement. The burden to demonstrate compliance will fall to the producers, and a documented farm food-safety program will be the best way.

In Iowa, we have focused our training on USDA GAP/GHP standard. Currently, USDA teams are working to make the GAP/GHP standard FSMA compliant, and those changes are expected later this year. This is good news for those farms who have implemented GAP plans on their farms. I think we can agree that modifying a current plan is easier than creating one from scratch!

Additionally, FMSA will not eliminate buyer imposed programs for food safety  that are already in place. Even if a farm is FSMA compliant, they may still need to be certified under one or more GAPs to sell to certain buyers.

There are several different “brands” of GAP certification, each with their own special requirements and certification agency. The type of GAP certification required is wholly the choice of the produce buying company. In some cases, a grower may need two or more certifications to sell to several different buyers.

The good news is that often food safety is the same, irrespective of the audit that a grower needs to perform. The food safety manual for a particular audit will be virtually the same for another audit under two different GAP brands. This saves time upfront when a grower needs more than one audit.

If you have specific questions about GAPs or have difficulty tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact the Iowa GAPs team for assistance.

Article adapted from Michigan State University Extension.

ISU Named Regional Center for FMSA Training

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will transform the nation’s food safety system into one that is based on the prevention of foodborne illness. It will be a system in which the food industry systematically puts in place measures proven effective in preventing contamination. Thus, food industry training will be an important component of successful implementation.

In 2015, recognizing the need for food safety training for small farm owners and food processors, the FDA and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Grant Program, intended to provide funding so that these critical groups receive training, education and technical assistance consistent with standards being established under FSMA. Grants issued through this program will fund a National Coordination Center (NCC) and four Regional Centers (RCs), which will be involved in both key components of training—primarily facilitating training delivery but also, in certain situations, facilitating curricula development targeted to specific audiences.

National Coordination Center: International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) of Battle Creek, Michigan

Regional Centers:

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL received the grant to establish the Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety.

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR received the grant to establish the Western Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Food Safety.

Iowa State University has received the grant to establish the North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance

University of Vermont and State Agricultural College has received the grant to establish the Northeast Center for Food Safety, Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance.

The goal of FSMA training programs will be the outcome – advancing knowledge among food producers to meet FSMA requirements. Specifically, the regional centers will be charged with understanding and communicating the landscape of training opportunities available to target businesses in their region. They will identify any need to develop or tailor curricula to meet specific unmet regional needs and/or to target a specific audience. These centers will work with representatives from non-governmental and community-based organizations, as well as representatives from cooperative extension services, food hubs, local farm cooperatives and other entities that can address specific needs of the communities they serve.

For more information on the FDA’s training strategy for FSMA, please see: FSMA Training

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