Food Safety Compliance for Fresh Citrus

Ernie Neff Food Safety

food safety
Scott McClure

Information about complying with the federal Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule was presented at the recent annual Citrus Packinghouse Day. Scott McClure, environmental manager for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Fruit & Vegetables (FDACS/DFV), was one of the presenters. He summarizes his talk.

McClure says the rule applies to “anyone that handles, grows, harvests or packs food that is consumed in a raw state.” In Florida citrus, the rule applies to the fresh side of the industry. According to McClure, the rule is intended to ensure any microbiological contamination is mitigated.

Large farms have had to be in compliance since January 2018; small farms since January 2019. Very small farms will have to be in compliance by January 2020.

In Florida, growers wanted FDACS/DFV to handle the inspections on behalf of the federal Food and Drug Administration “because of our relationship that we’ve developed over the years with our fruit and vegetable industry,” McClure says. Although growers are supposed to be in compliance already, McClure says, “We are not going to start inspections on those farms until the following year … So they kind of have a year to get their ducks in a row” following the compliance dates.

FDACS/DFV and University of Florida Extension will conduct On-Farm Readiness Reviews only when invited by growers, McClure says. “We go through and do a walk-through, tell them what we see and what we’ve found,” he says. “We leave them with all the documentation” and with a manual “that lays out the whole rule in its entirety. And then we leave, and there’s no record of us really ever being there.” The visit is to help growers ensure they’ll be in compliance when an inspection is conducted.

Two other speakers addressed food safety at Citrus Packinghouse Day, one from FDACS and one from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Hear more from McClure:

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large