The Colusa County Resource Conservation district is helping to spread the word about the little known Food Safety Modernization Act, which laid out new regulations for the produce industry to follow.
The Act was signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, by President Barrack Obama, and is the most sweeping reform of the United States food safety laws in over 70 years, said Jackie Filter, CCRCD Natural Resources Coordinator.
“It’s one of the biggest concerns most farmers are facing today,” Filter said. “It’s huge, it’s complicated, and it affects food safety at almost every level.”
Filter said the FSMA is the first mandatory federal standard for the production of fruits and vegetables in the U.S.
Prior to FSMA, growers, packers, and the produce industry were simply encouraged to follow voluntary guidelines. The new law, however, laid out regulations for the produce industry to follow and enabled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to enforce these regulations, as well as respond to and contains problems as they occur. The law was designed to help reduce the amount of foodborne illnesses and deaths through focusing on prevention, Filter said. It also provides the FDA with the tools to hold imported foods to the same standards as domestic foods.
So how do you know if FSMA affects you?
“In a nutshell, if you work in the produce industry, like many farmers in Colusa County, you should be paying attention to FSMA,” Filter said. “Many of the crops that are grown in Colusa County must follow FSMA regulations, such as almonds, walnuts, prunes, peaches, tomatoes, corn, and more.
Filter said grain and oil products, such as rice and sunflowers, and even dry beans, are automatically exempt because of the low risk they have or because of how they are processed. “Depending on how your product is processed (canned, frozen, dried), your product may be eligible for exemption as well,” Filter said.
Many farms are currently required to be in compliance with FSMA regulations beginning in 2018. This includes all farms that have an average annual value of produce sold in the last three years of $500,000 or more.
Any farm businesses that have average annual produce sales lower than that for the last three years are required to be compliant within the next two years.
The FDA has provided many tools
and trainings to help farmers reach compliance. They can find out more at the FDA’s website www.fda.gov, or contact the Colusa County Resource Conservation District at 530-458-5131 ex. 117. ■