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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:
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.
The UMass food safety website is a great resource for more information about FSMA, how to access technical support, and a range of other general food safety topics.
In addition, here is a regional water testing lab map, which has been compiled to help produce growers locate a nearby lab that has the capability to perform water tests using FSMA-approved test methods. Farms covered under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule must test their agricultural water using a method approved by the FDA.
Audits provide verification that farms have implemented food safety plans and practices. This verification may be required by some buyers, especially for farms that have not already been state-inspected to verify FSMA compliance. Farmers in Massachusetts who want food safety certification may receive Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP) certification and/or USDA-Good Agricultural Practices (USDA GAP) certification.
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.
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.
Get in touch with CISA Program Coordinator Zoraia de Jesus Barros if you would like help providing produce safety training to your workers this season. CISA has new produce safety worker training materials available in both English and Spanish that are up to date with all the basic FSMA produce safety requirements, and Zoraia can also visit your farm to help provide in-person worker training this spring.
CISA has also created a training video, available in both English and Spanish, that can be used to provide general produce safety training to your farm’s employees. This video is intended to clearly and simply communicate key training topics required under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and to supplement training in any specific policies/procedures that are unique to your farm. Videos are also available to train employees in common sanitizing SOPs using bleach and SaniDate. As always, we welcome your input! Email us with your thoughts, questions, and/or food safety needs.
Click here to view Farm Produce Safety Employee Training Videos.
Try the Checklist for Managing Your Food Safety Liability, released by Farm Commons. This resource shares the 12 key steps farmers can take to help them understand the legal aspects of food safety. This highlights 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.
If you are selling processed products, as opposed to fresh produce, you will need to comply with additional requirements. As discussed above, the FSMA Preventive Controls Rule covers some processors, and all processors must be licensed by their local boards of health and/or by the MA Department of Public Health (DPH). Food safety requirements vary according to the product, since some foods are considered to be more “potentially hazardous” than others.
Feel free to contact CISA if you would like additional help navigating food safety regulations or audits – we can help you understand basic requirements and direct you to relevant resources.