Iowa’s Produce Safety Rule Program
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), under an agreement with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is currently building a Produce Safety Program in cooperation with ISU Extension to provide education and outreach on the new Produce Safety Rule. This joint IDALS/ISU Extension “Iowa Produce Safety Team” encourages growers to seek guidance and training to better understand where their farms fall under the rule.
In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA was enacted into law. This act – Title 21, Chapter 27, of the Code of Federal Regulations – is administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The act will be implemented over time with the primary goal of prevention of food borne illnesses including the reduction and elimination of outbreaks of illnesses and deaths associated with Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and other food borne diseases. The law promulgates the most sweeping reform of the FDA’s food safety authority in more than 70 years.
FSMA incorporates seven “Foundation Rules” one of which is titled “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption” - also known as the Produce Safety Rule. The Rule went into effect on January 26, 2016. In the words of the FDA, the Rule “establishes, for the first time, science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The goal is to reduce the presence of potentially dangerous biological hazards in the food supply and illnesses caused by contaminated produce.” A primary focus of the Rule is with produce that is typically or frequently consumed raw.
- Produce Farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold produce for eventual commercial sale fall under the Rule via three categories: exempt, qualified exempt, and full compliance. Because there are a number of exemptions, growers should use the FDA’s Produce Safety Rule Flowchart to determine whether their farm is covered by the rule. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has also produce a flowchart that may be of assistance. In addition, the Iowa Produce Safety Team has developed an informational document on exempt and qualified exempt status that can be found here.
- Growers that are unsure of their status or growers that know they fall under full compliance can assist the Iowa Produce Safety Rule Team by completing the Grower Inventory Registration. The information gathered through the registration will also allow the Team to better assist growers in determining training locations and offer farm visits, notification of trainings, and On-Farm Readiness Reviews.
- Commercial producers are also encouraged to take a one-day Produce Safety Alliance-sanctioned training offered the winter of 2017-18 and again during the winter of 2018-19. Training event information can be found here.
- Growers that fall under full compliance and larger growers falling under the qualified exempt status that have undergone the Produce Safety Alliance-sanctioned training may also have the opportunity to participate in On-Farm Readiness Reviews. Farms that fall under full compliance are subject to potential inspection by FDA personnel or their representatives. The reviews are educational opportunities that allow producers to view their farms through the lens of the rule with two to four Iowa Produce Safety Team members providing input on best practices and those practices that may require some fine tuning to be in compliance with the law. More information on On-Farm Readiness Reviews can be found by visiting the ISU Extension Produce Safety Rule website at https://www.safeproduce.cals.iastate.edu/fda-produce-safety-rule .
- The Iowa Produce Safety Team is working with FDA and growers so FSMA requirements can be met before the compliance dates . After determining if your farm is exempt, qualified exempt, or under full compliance, check the compliance dates link to see when steps need to be taken on your farm.
- Contacts: the Iowa Produce Safety Team is made up of staff from both IDALS and ISU Extension. A listing of team members can be found here.
Links of Interest
ISU Extension Produce Safety Website
FDA FSMA Website
FDA Produce Safety Rule Website
FDA Compliance Category Flowchart for Farms
Iowa Exempt and Qualified Exempt Categories Explained
Iowa Grower Inventory/Questionnaire
Iowa Training Opportunities
Iowa Produce Safety Team Contacts