Food Safety Modernization Act goes into effect Jan. 26

newspaperThe Food Safety Modernization Act will go in effect Jan. 26. Considered the most sweeping update of U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years, it will affect the nation’s largest-scale produce growers, including some in Virginia.

The act’s Produce Safety Rule establishes mandatory science-based, minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. These standards were designed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Farms covered by the Produce Safety Rule will be held to certain new minimum standards in hopes of reducing the potential presence of dangerous bacteria in the food supply,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“Farms and produce not covered under the rule are subject to industry food safety audits or voluntary USDA Good Agricultural Practice audits,” Banks explained. “The U.S. food supply is very safe; the Produce Safety Rule is intended to make it even safer.”

The FDA has emphasized the first year of the rule will focus less on regulation and compliance and more on education and readiness. It will affect farms with sales of $500,000 or more immediately and farms with sales between $250,000 and $500,000 in January 2019. Farms with sales greater than $25,000 but less than $250,000 will be included by January 2020.

In Virginia, the total number of farms estimated to be covered by the rule is about 400. Within the state, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will oversee rule-related education, assistance and compliance.