FDA Delays Water Testing Compliance
FDA recognizes a need for expanded efforts to educate growers and state officials on the new produce safety requirements. Towards that end, the agency will continue its focus on training, guidance development, and outreach over the next year.
For produce farm inspections, large farming operations will still be expected to meet all requirements set by the Produce Safety rule for produce other than sprouts, except those related to agricultural water, by the original January 26, 2018, compliance date.
Inspections to assess compliance with the non-water requirements of the Produce Safety rule for produce other than sprouts won’t start until 2019.
FDA and state partners will use the year to give more education, training, and outreach to growers on the new requirements. States will expand On-Farm Readiness Reviews in the months ahead. The reviews have been piloted in six states and allow growers to receive an assessment of their readiness to meet the new FSMA requirements.
For agricultural water compliance dates, FDA issued a proposed rule that would extend the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements by an additional two to four years for produce other than sprouts.
The extension will allow the FDA to “take another look” at the water standards to ensure that they are feasible for farmers in all regions of the country and still protect public health, according to the release.
The new agricultural water compliance date that FDA is proposing for the largest farms is January 2022. Small farms and very small farms would have until January 2023 and January 2024, respectively. The proposed rule is open for public comment for 60 days.
The agency said it does not intend to take action to enforce the agricultural water requirements for produce other than sprouts while the rulemaking to extend the compliance dates is underway.
Sprouts, because of their unique vulnerability to contamination, remain subject to applicable agricultural water requirements in the final rule and their original compliance dates.
FDA plans to talk with farmers, state regulatory partners and others about how water is used in agriculture. That outreach will include an agriculture water summit early next year, according to the release.
FDA also announced eight additional water testing methods that can be used for meeting the requirements of the Produce Safety rule. The agency said it intends to add other methods to the list as they are identified.
For more information, please visit https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/ucm334114.htm.
Related Content from our August/September 2017 issue
Fixing FSMA’s Ag Water Requirements