Proposed Changes to Agricultural Water Requirements in the Produce Safety Rule
On December 2, 2021 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed rule that aims to enhance the safety of produce. It proposes to require farms to conduct comprehensive assessments that would help them identify and mitigate hazards in water used to grow produce. This is the latest step in the agency’s implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and it proposes to replace some of the existing requirements for agricultural water in the Produce Safety Rule (PSR). The FDA is proposing a revision to Subpart E. View the proposed standard here.
Comments and feedback can be submitted online. The comment period is open until April 5, 2022. Growers, educators, regulators, and others are all encouraged to submit feedback.
UPDATES AND NEW RESOURCES:
On March 21, the FDA released a new user-friendly online Agricultural Water Assessment Builder to help farms understand the proposed requirements for an agricultural water assessment in the Agricultural Water Proposed Rule. Use of the tool is optional. If finalized, the proposed rule would require farms to conduct systems-based agricultural water assessments to determine and guide appropriate measures to minimize potential risks associated with pre-harvest agricultural water. The Agricultural Water Assessment Builder prompts users to answer questions and/or fill in information specific to their farms. Information entered into the tool is not shared with the FDA and will not be saved.
Check out this webinar from the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association to get an overview of the proposed rule: https://youtu.be/68DQ0q4swk0.
Flexibility to Farms Regarding Eligibility for the Qualified Exemption Under the Produce Safety Rule:
The temporary policy guidance issued in May 2020 provides flexibility regarding eligibility criteria for the qualified exemption under the Produce Safety Rule during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Specifically, farms that are currently eligible for the qualified exemption and associated modified requirements will still be considered eligible, even if they shift sales away from qualified end-users, so long as they continue to meet the requirement that their average food sales during the previous three years total less than $500,000 (adjusted for inflation). This policy is intended to remain in effect only for the duration of the public health emergency related to COVID-19 declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.