Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Changes in the Law for Produce Growers and Farm Marketers

From the Penn State Hort Report:

Changes in the Law for Produce Growers and Farm Marketers:
Things you need to know!


Steve Bogash, Regional Horticulture Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension, and Luke LaBorde, Associate Pro-fessor, Department of Food Science, Penn State University

1. The safe handling and production of raw produce is being taken seriously at the Federal level. This act gives the FDA relatively broad powers to create standards for the production, handling and packag-ing of raw produce. These standards must use the best science available, so will change over time.

2. An amendment that was included in the act pro-vides for the exclusion of businesses that do less than $500,000 in sales if they:

a. Sell in-state directly to the public or end user. For example, sell directly to grocers and restaurants.

b. Sell out-of-state if the market is within 275 miles of their operation. This in-cludes farm markets and farmers mar-kets.

3. Included under these new powers is the ability of the FDA to regulate all sales through remarketers. Al-though we’ll have to wait for the final rules, this will probably require that produce auctions require their growers to fall under whatever standards the FDA implements.

4. This will all probably mean that GAP and related food safety standards are going to be part of every grower’s production standards.

5. For certified organic growers, there is provision within the act that prevents conflict or duplicate re-quirements. Organic growers are not excluded from this bill, but are protected from excessive regulation as long as basic GAP practices that protect public health adhered to.

6. Specific fruits and vegetables that are considered riskier or have a history of being linked to foodborne illness outbreaks are considered priority items. Read this as green, berries, melons, tomatoes, herbs, and green onions.

7. The Commissioner of the FDA is charged in this bill with keeping the rules and regulations flexible and practical for all sizes of businesses and on-farm food processors.

8. Although specific purchasers such as Wegman’s may require third party inspections, they are not required under this act. Read this to mean that this will be very similar to maintaining a pesticide license. You must keep certain records as well as grow and pack-age your produce under modern, scientifically deter-mined standards, but FDA will be determining what specific types of inspections will be required.

9. Labeling is a hot issue. Individual produce will not be required to be labeled. However, there must be prominent signage on display at the sales point giving purchasers the business name and address of the pro-ducer.

All farmers market stands that sell food to the public are considered individual food retail facilities and must each pay the $82 annual renewal fee unless considered exempt. A farmers market will no longer be considered the license holder. This relates to prepared ready-to-eat foods, not raw ingredients such as produce. Each stand / booth will now be a license holder.
Unless you’ve avoided talking to any other growers recently and / or don’t read any grower news, you’ve heard about the Federal (FDA) Food Modernization Act. There’s been a lot of scare tactics and confusing information sent out over the web on this act. After reading through the law and related amendment, this is not nearly as bad as some of the stories I’ve read make it out to seem. While the specific rules and regulations will need to be written by the FDA within 1 year of the signing date (January 5, 2011) and implementation sometime after that, there are some things that growers will want to consider now.


For more information contact Steve Bogash (717) 263-9226 or smb13@psu.edu

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