FDA Postpones Produce Safety Rule Water Compliance for Farms and Releases New Proposed Changes
From the Western Agricultural Processors Association
The Association was notified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about today’s announcement on postponing FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule water compliance requirements, subpart E, which was set to begin in January 2022. The agency intends to exercise enforcement discretion for the agricultural water requirements for covered produce while the proposing changes to the current water requirements.
The proposed rule that would revise subpart E of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule to change certain pre-harvest agricultural water requirements for covered produce other than sprouts. Key provisions in the proposed rule include:
- A requirement for farms to manage their agricultural water quality based on the results of a comprehensive systems assessment (“agricultural water assessment”) that is adaptable to the wide variety of water sources and uses and future scientific advancements.
- An annual assessment by farms of their pre-harvest agricultural water to identify any conditions likely to introduce hazards into, or onto, covered produce or food contact surfaces. Based on these assessments, farms would then determine whether corrective or mitigation measures are reasonably necessary to reduce the potential for contamination. The assessment would include an evaluation of the farm’s water system, agricultural water use practices, crop characteristics, environmental conditions and other relevant factors, such as the results of any testing conducted to inform the assessment.
- A requirement that farms implement expedited mitigation measures for hazards related to certain activities associated with adjacent and nearby lands, to protect the quality of the water used on produce. This is being included following several recent outbreak investigations on produce that revealed potential routes of contamination including activities and conditions, such as animal grazing and the presence of livestock and wildlife on land adjacent to, or near, produce farms or their water sources.
- The removal of certain testing requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water and replacing them with the agricultural water assessments identified above. The proposed revisions are intended to address stakeholder concerns about complexity and practical implementation challenges while protecting public health.