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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 Andrea Sarchet at the Department of Agriculture (406) 444-0131 or Andrea.Sarchet@mt.gov.
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 and/or MDA's online Produce Safety Rule Exemption Decision Tool to help determine if your farm will be exempt from the rule or not.
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.
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.
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.
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 farms subject to the rule continue to maintain current water testing practices.
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