Stakeholders in the agriculture sector are being sensitised about the possible changes that are coming to the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Produce Safety Rule, which will require them to carry out assessments to ensure that water used to grow produce is free from contaminants.
The FDA is proposing a revision to Subpart E of the FDA Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule that would change the pre-harvest agricultural water requirements for covered produce (other than sprouts). The objective is to protect public health.
The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) hosted a webinar on Tuesday (March 22), to provide details about the proposed revisions that were announced on December 6, 2021, and which will have an impact on local farmers who supply agricultural produce to the US market.
Information from the FDA website indicates that under the new measures, farms will be required to carry out an annual assessment of pre-harvest agricultural water to identify any conditions likely to introduce hazards into or onto covered produce or food contact surfaces.
Based on these assessments, farms would then determine whether corrective or mitigation measures are necessary to reduce the potential for contamination that can cause foodborne diseases and illnesses.
Consumer Safety Officer at the FDA, Kruti Ravaliya, explained that the removal of certain testing requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water and replacing them with the agricultural water assessments, is intended to address stakeholder concerns about complexity and practical implementation challenges.
“We heard from stakeholders that the testing frequency and the microbial quality profile development were complex and challenging to implement based on the diversity of produce grown and the diversity of water sources, application and distribution systems,” she noted.
“This proposal is really to take a step back from the specifics that were published in 2015 to allow the flexibility to incorporate geographic diversity of the water used,” she added.
She pointed out that as part of the assessment requirement, farms would need to evaluate their agricultural water systems and practices, crop characteristics and environmental conditions, to ensure that the water used on their farms is free from microbial contaminants
Director of Standards, BSJ, Julia Bonner Douett, said that the Bureau has a role to play in ensuring that the food industry is strengthened to better respond to the requirements, both locally and internationally.
“Agriculture plays a vital role in our country. Therefore, the BSJ understands that it is critical for us to support this industry through our Food Safety Modernisation Branch and our regional international office,” she said.
Further details of the proposed changes to the FDA Produce Safety Rule can be accessed at https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-proposed-rule-agricultural-water.
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