Food Safety Modernization Act
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed in 2011, and final rules went into effect on January 26, 2016. For up-to-date information on the Act, see the FDA’s web page here. For information on the two FSMA rules that most impact local farms, visit these pages:
- FSMA Produce Rule (which applies to fresh produce)
- FSMA Preventive Controls Rule (which applies to processed produce)
In Massachusetts, the Department of Agricultural Resources is responsible for implementing the Produce Rule as well as providing training to growers on the rule, and the Department of Public Health is responsible for implementing the Preventive Controls Rule.
Here is a simple guide to FSMA Produce Rule compliance to help you figure out if and when your farm must comply with the FSMA Produce Rule, as well as the FDA-approved training manual to help you learn how to comply with the Produce Rule.
Third Party Audits
Audits provide verification that farms have implemented food safety plans and practices. This verification may be required by some buyers.
- Farmers in Massachusetts may receive Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification and/or Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP) certification. The website of the MA Department of Agricultural Resources has more information on the food safety audits required for GAP certification and CQP certification.
- This introduction to food safety audits also provides definitions for the terms commonly used to describe food safety protocols—GAPs, GMPs, HAACP, and more.
- The UMass GAP and Harmonized GAP Food Safety Manual includes lots of information about audits, and their website includes a wealth of other information about food safety.
- This USDA GAP audit checklist can help you understand what is expected in a USDA GAP audit.
Farm Food Safety Plans
For many growers, whether or not they are required to comply with FSMA or get a third party audit, a written food safety plan is a good first step to reducing food safety risks. This plan need not be complicated. In many cases, creating a food safety plan won’t add additional tasks or equipment, but will provide a record of practices that are already in place, like hand-washing. Creating the food safety plan may also alert growers to simple food safety practices that may have been overlooked.
- Ag Matters LLC in Maine has a good farm food safety template. Growers should adapt the plan to their own particular circumstances.
- The UMass GAP and Harmonized GAP Food Safety Manual, mentioned above, includes sample farm food safety plans, as well as a valuable collection of resources related to food safety planning and audits.
Farm Food Safety Training
UMass Extension and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources offer regular training on GAP/food safety principles and the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Training can help growers comply with regulatory and buyer requirements, develop food safety plans, identify and correct areas of weakness, and understand whether food safety inspections or third party audits are needed for their farm business.
- The UMass Extension Food Safety Program website provides information about upcoming trainings.
- Watch CISA’s events page for additional food safety trainings in the region.
Reducing Legal Risks
Try the Farmers’ Guide to Reducing the Legal Risks of a Food Safety Incident, released by Farm Commons. This resource will help farmers to understand the legal aspects of food safety, some of the many risks that exist, how to reduce the likelihood of these risks materializing, and how to recover in case they do materialize – because bad things can happen to even the best farmers.
More specifically, the guide will help farmers to understand the following situations and the necessary steps to take in each case:
- How personal injury lawsuits function
- How contracts can create additional liability
- The legal aspects of a recall
- The potential for government involvement in a food safety outbreak
Ready-to-Eat Salad Greens
CISA has generated detailed additional information for producers of ready-to-eat salad greens here.