Idaho farmers may soon be facing new regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working with food industry stakeholders to address food safety concerns. On January 4, 2013, the FDA announced two proposed rules under the FSMA, including a proposed rule to establish science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms.
This proposed produce rule, if adopted as currently drafted, will have a mixed impact on Idaho farmers. The proposed rule would apply to farms that grow, harvest, pack, or hold most fruits or vegetables in their raw or unprocessed state. Notably for Idaho farmers, the proposed rule would not apply to produce that is rarely consumed raw, such as potatoes. Furthermore, farmers may be entitled to partial exemptions under the proposed rule if their food sales average less than $500,000 per year during the last three years, and if the majority of their sales are to consumers or retail food establishments.
For those farms affected by the proposed rule, the proposed regulations focus on common sources of microbial contamination of produce: agricultural water, manure and other soil additions, worker health and hygiene, domesticated and wild animals, and equipment, tools, and buildings.
Agricultural water. The proposed rule would require that all water that is intended or likely to come into contact with produce or food-contact surfaces be sufficiently sanitary.
Manure and other additions to soil. The proposed rule establishes requirements regarding the types of manure treatment, application methods, and timing necessary to reduce the risk of pathogens from manure and other additions to soil.
Worker health and hygiene. The proposed rule would require farm workers follow prescribed hygiene practices, including hand washing.
Domesticated and wild animals. The proposed rule addresses possible produce contamination by both domestic and wild animals by establishing a waiting period for harvesting produce from a growing area in which domestic animals have grazed, or where wild animals may have intruded.
Equipment, tools, and buildings. The proposed rule establishes sanitation standards for farming equipment, tools, and buildings.
If you have any concerns with any of the requirements of this proposed rule, now is your time to act.
– Lance J. Schuster is a lawyer at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.