This page is intended to be a resource to find applicable food safety information for producers, processors and buyers. If you are aware of a resource that you think would be useful, please email email@example.com. If you encounter any broken links in the list below, please contact the MDA webmaster.
Produce Safety Needs Assessment
Wondering if your farm will be covered by the Produce Safety Rule? The following survey was developed to help Montana growers determine if they'll need to comply or if they'll be exempt. The survey is also your opportunity to share your training and resource needs as the Department plans future education and outreach. Please click on the following link to complete the survey, or call 406-444-0131 to answer the questions over the phone.
Thank you for your input!
Food Safety Modernization Act
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA, often pronounced "fizz-ma") was signed into law on January 4, 2011. FSMA authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take a preventative approach to food safety.
There are seven rules included within FSMA. In November 2015, the Produce Safety Rule was finalized, which sets food safety standards for farms in an effort to minimize the risks of microbiological contamination that may occur during the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fresh produce. The key elements to the Produce Safety Rule include:
- Employee qualifications and training
- Worker health and hygiene
- Agricultural water used during growing, harvesting, packing and holding
- Biological soil amendments
- Domesticated and wild animals
- Equipment, Tools and Buildings
- Record Keeping
- Sprouts- specific requirements because of their susceptibility to contamination
FSMA does not take the place of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) though farms already utilizing these programs will have a head start on the Produce Safety Rule. For example, Global GAP has already released an assessment showing the Produce Rule requirements alongside the relevant GAPs. It is expected that the FDA and USDA will continue to work together to release guidance.
For more information about coverage and exemptions, review the following links:
Exemptions to the Produce Safety Rule
Not all farms or commodities are covered by the new rules- there are exemptions and exclusions (this is just a summary, for a full explanation review the Final Rule):
- The rule does not apply to food grown only for personal consumption.
- If your farm has average annual produce sales less than $25,000, the rule does not apply.
- The rule does not apply to produce commodities that are "rarely consumed raw." The list of these commodities are below.
- Asparagus; black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans; garden beets (roots and tops) and sugar beets; cashews; sour cherries; chickpeas; cocoa beans; coffee beans; collards; sweet corn; cranberries; dates; dill (seeds and weed); eggplant; figs; ginger; hazelnuts; horseradish; lentils; okra; peanuts; pecans; peppermint; potatoes; pumpkins; winter squash; sweet potatoes; water chestnuts.
- There is an exemption for produce that receives commercial processing that adequately reduces harmful pathogens (e.g. a kill step). Specific written assurances and disclosures must be documented.
- A "qualified exemption" is provided for farms that meet two requirements: (1) the farm must have total food sales averaging less than $500,000 annually during the previous 3 years; and (2) the farm's sales to qualified end-users* must exceed sales to all others. Qualified exempt farms must keep documentation to show eligibility for the exemption. They must also display their name and address on the label of the produce or at the point of purchase (e.g. sign at the farmers market).
- A qualified end-user is either: (1) the direct consumer of the food or (2) a restaurant or retail food establishment that is located in the same state or reservation as the farm OR within 275 miles.
Produce Safety Alliance
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) is a collaborative project between the US Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and Cornell University. Visit their main page to sign up for their newsletter or find them on Facebook. Below are a few areas of focus for the PSA:
The PSA has taken the lead in creating standardized training curriculum and materials for produce growers. Currently, this training curriculum is the only FDA approved training to meet the FSMA requirements for covered farms. The FSMA Produce Safety Rules requires at least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the FDA. In the future, there may be alternative trainings offered, but as of March 2017, the PSA Grower Training is the only one "recognized as adequate."
If you have questions about whether or not a training will meet the requirements, please contact Betsy Miller at the Department of Agriculture (406) 444-0131 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Future training is being planned in Montana, but you are welcome to take the PSA Grower training wherever it is offered. See a list of upcoming courses by clicking here.
The PSA is continually adding resources and materials to their web page. Below are just a few topics you can find; click on the links to learn more:
- Agricultural water calculation tools
- Exemption and exclusion presentation
- Farm food safety plan writing resources (you are not required to have a safety plan for your farm, but it is recommended)
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are responses to some of the commonly received questions about the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Produce Safety Rule. If you have questions beyond the scope of this list, or would like further explanation, please contact Betsy Miller at the Department of Agriculture (406) 444-0131 or email@example.com
How do I know if this rule applies to me?
There are a few exceptions to the Produce Safety Rule. Exemptions include produce that is: grown for personal consumption; will receive commercial processing; or is rarely consumed raw (such as potatoes). Additional exemptions are for farms that have less than $25,000 in average annual produce sales.
Complete the questions on the survey/decision tool to help determine if your farm will be exempt from the rule or not.
My farm is going to be fully covered, when do I need to comply?
Compliance dates are staggered based on the average annual produce sales.
Farms with more than $500,000 of average annual produce sales will be fully covered by the rule and will need to comply by Jan. 26, 2018
Farms with more than $250,000 but less than $500,000 of average annual produce sales will need to comply by Jan. 28, 2019
Farms with more than $25,000 but less than $250,000 of average annual produce sales will need to comply by Jan. 27, 2020
An additional 2 years should be factored in for water testing requirements, unless you are a sprout grower.
A third-party already does GAP audits on my farm, is that enough to comply?
Currently, a GAP audit is not sufficient to comply with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. However, being GAP certified or having a farm food safety plan will make it easier for you to meet the requirements. Depending on the program you use, you may find that your audit requirements are higher than the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements. Contact the Montana Department of Agriculture if you have more questions.
Am I required to have a food safety plan?
No, you are not required to have an on-farm food safety plan under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. However, having a plan is an excellent way to organize and manage your safety policies and procedures. Additionally, if you are exempt from the rule, have a food safety plan to show your buyers can demonstrate your commitment to safe produce.
Multiple online resources exist to help you create a plan. Find templates and guides by clicking here.
I've heard that the water testing requirements are changing. What do I need to know?
The FDA is exploring ways to simplify the microbial quality and testing requirements for agricultural water. It is possible that additional testing methods will become available for farmers to use. Until further guidance is released, it is recommended that covered farms use the testing standards currently listed in the Produce Safety Rule.
As someone who eats produce, how will this affect me?
As a consumer, you should still take measures to reduce microbial contamination on fruits and vegetables at home. Steps include:
- Refrigerate perishable fruits and veggies at 40 degrees or below.
- Be mindful not to cross contaminate raw meat or seafood products with produce
- Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing fresh produce
- Wash fruits and vegetables with water before eating or cutting
Find more tips at www.foodsafety.gov
Looking for Certified Food Protection Manager Trainings? Click here
ServSafe Trainings through MSU extension Click here
Need more information? Have questions or training requests? Contact Betsy Miller, Food Safety Coordinator at (406) 444-0131 or