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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.
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:
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.