FSMA Produce Safety Rule inspections to start this spring

The Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was established to set standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and storage of the fruits and vegetables that we eat every day.

Like other FSMA rules, its implementation is gradual, giving producers time to outfit their operations and procedures in a way that would make them compliant. And soon, in spring 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to begin routine inspections for produce, after previously being delayed.

At first, the routine inspections will only impact large farms, both domestically and internationally (if the farm intends to export to the U.S.).

“Fresh produce is an important part of an overall healthy diet,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “The vast majority of fresh produce we eat is generally safe, especially when you consider per capita consumption rates. Unfortunately, in too many cases, foodborne illnesses are still being linked to fresh produce.”

The delay of these inspections allowed more time for training and educational material to reach the industry. The FDA spent this time, and plans to spend the next few months before inspections begin, working with farms, facilities and regulators to share resources that will make it easier for the inspections to proceed smoothly and for facilities to comply with all aspects of the rule. More than $85 million was granted to state governments by the FDA to form produce safety technical assistance, education and outreach.

Many resources are available online — Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine has compiled some here. The FDA too shares the most important things the produce community needs to know at its Produce Safety Inspections website.

Inspections of small farms (apart from sprouts operations) are set to begin in spring 2020.

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