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FDA Releases Final Rule on Agricultural Water Safety for Produce Farming

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After over a decade of deliberation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a long-awaited final rule concerning the management of certain agricultural water utilized in produce farming. The publication of this rule, which was mandated by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, marks a significant milestone in enhancing food safety practices within the produce industry.

Addressing concerns stemming from various produce-related outbreaks, the FDA emphasizes that the new rule is grounded in scientific insights and experiences garnered over the years. Notably, it specifically targets potential water contamination from adjacent and nearby lands, including areas housing animal feedlots, which have been implicated in past outbreaks.

Despite its comprehensive scope, it’s important to note that the rule does not extend to post-harvest water activities, such as washing produce before shipment, a critical aspect in the production of leafy greens and packaged salads. Additionally, sprout production falls under a separate regulation within the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The FDA’s announcement underscores the collaborative effort involved in crafting this rule, with ample industry input incorporated over the years. Described as a vital step towards bolstering public health, the revised requirements aim to enhance the safety of water used in produce cultivation while ensuring practicality and adaptability across various agricultural systems.

Key provisions of the final rule include the establishment of requirements for agricultural water assessments, periodic testing under certain circumstances, and the implementation of effective mitigation measures based on assessment findings. Farms are mandated to conduct these assessments annually and after any significant changes, with compliance deadlines staggered based on farm size.

Recognizing the importance of supporting compliance, the FDA emphasizes an “educate before and while we regulate” approach. Alongside the rule, the FDA has released informative fact sheets to aid understanding and implementation within the industry.

Source: FSN

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