Taylor Langford O’Bannon, food safety Extension agent for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), shared information on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed changes to the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. The changes pertain specifically to Subpart E (Agricultural Water).
“The proposed changes, if finalized, will replace the pre-harvest microbial quality criteria and testing requirements for covered produce with systems-based assessments for determining pre-harvest water quality. The current proposed rule does not include changes to harvest and post-harvest uses of agricultural water,” said O’Bannon.
She notes that these changes are only proposed changes, not final, so changes in current production practices are not required. According to O’Bannon, the current proposed rule does not include a delay in the Jan. 22 compliance dates for large farms, but a subsequent rule is currently under review to further delay compliance dates. In the meantime, FDA intends to use enforcement discretion for Subpart E.
O’Bannon provided a summary of the proposed changes:
Covered farms must conduct pre-harvest agricultural water assessments once annually, and whenever a change occurs that contamination risks may be introduced to produce or food contact surfaces. As part of their pre-harvest agricultural water assessments, farms would be required to evaluate certain factors that could impact produce safety. These factors include:
- Agricultural water system
- Agricultural water practices
- Crop characteristics
- Environmental conditions
- Other relevant factors
Mark Ritenour, UF/IFAS professor, urged fresh citrus growers and packers to provide feedback concerning the proposed rule. The comment period will be open for 120 days. Comments should be submitted to docket FDA-2021-N-0471 on Regulations.gov.
Submit questions to UFFoodSafety@ifas.ufl.edu.