From compliance deadline extensions to the development of employee training programs, a lot has happened since the release of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 20111. Farmers and growers have been hard at work in attempts to meet the specifications of the lengthy list of food safety regulations that make up FSMA.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) decided to take a look at the effect that FSMA, and more specifically, the Produce Rule, had made in the years after it was signed into law. In 2015-2016, the USDA conducted a survey that investigated produce grower safety practices and costs as they changed to match the requirements of FSMA’s Produce Rule. With compliance dates fast approaching in the coming years for many growers around the country, the 84-page survey gives an interesting view of the preparations that have been made since 2011 and shows where the country stands in terms of readiness for FSMA deadlines2.
The main focus of the survey . It accounts for the details of third party audits, measured costs, personnel training and qualifications, and water application. One of the most poignant findings of the survey noted that the rate at which growers chose to adopt and enforce various food safety practices would diverge depending on the level of coverage of the Produce Rule3.
Survey Statistics3 :
66.1% of covered growers were already testing their preharvest water prior to being required to do so by the rule, but did not initially do so as often as specified by the rule
63.1% of ‘very large growers’, 29.2% of ‘small growers’, 10.7% of those with a qualified exemption, and 6.9% of those not subject to the rule had a third-party food safety audit
Those without regular third-party food safety audits spent 2 to 10 times less on measured costs than those with
According to the survey, “growers with higher sales generally operated more produce acres, [making] the share of acres on which food safety practices were in place far exceed the share of growers who implemented food safety practices”.3 The survey also noted that while some growers were practicing the right food safety techniques, those methods were not being carried out to the full extent required by the Produce Rule.
In an effort to help more growers become fully compliant with FSMA and alleviate the strain of the Produce Rule around the country, the USDA is renewing agreements with 43 states in the U.S. and is enacting new agreements with 3 more states4. To read more on how these agreements affect the Produce Rule and to see whether your state is involved, check out our article on the USDA FSMA PR Rule Agreements.