How The Finalized Produce Safety Rule Will Affect Greenhouse Growers

Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.Last month, FDA finalized three rules that were established through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): the Produce Safety rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule and the Accredited Third-Party Certification rule.

The Produce Safety Rule is the one rule that will likely have the biggest impact on greenhouse growers and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) growers. FDA used public comments and input collected during farm visits, meetings, and listening sessions to develop a rule it says aims at reducing contamination risk while providing flexibility for farmers and growers.

There are exemptions to the rule for some producers. These include farms that have an average annual value of produce sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less. Also, to be eligible for a qualified exemption, the farm must meet two requirements:

1. The farm must have food sales averaging less than $500,000 per year during the previous three years.

2. The farm’s sales to qualified end-users must exceed sales to all others combined during the previous three years. A qualified end-user is either (a) the consumer of the food or (b) a restaurant or retail food establishment that is located in the same state as the farm or not more than 275 miles away.

While these exemptions likely apply to many greenhouse vegetable producers, the reality is that having a proper food safety plan in place is still critical.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Bihn, director of the Produce Safety Alliance at Cornell University, greenhouse vegetable growers and CEA growers may receive added pressure from buyers to follow FSMA whether or not they are exempt from it.

“If a buyer tells a grower, ‘I’m not buying your produce unless you have a third party audit,’ and the grower wants that company’s account, then the grower is going to do the audit,” Bihn says.

“Legally a grower may be exempt from the regulation, but if a buyer says that doesn’t matter, then the grower will still have to meet the regulation.”

Bihn says that there are still going to be markets that don’t require growers to meet the regulation if their operations are exempt from it.

“If you are a greenhouse grower who sells to a market that’s not requiring compliance with FSMA and you are exempt from the regulation, you may not have to do anything related to the regulation,” Bihn says.

Learn more about the new food safety rules and how they will affect you on a blog page written by Dave Kuack on the Hort Americas website.

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