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Produce growers who complete the voluntary Missouri Produce Farm Survey will help themselves and the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) Produce Safety Program determine if they are exempt, qualified exempt, process exempt, or covered by the Produce Safety Rule. In addition, the information gathered through the survey will also allow the Program to better assist growers by determining training locations and providing farm visits, notification of trainings, compliance dates, changes/updates to the Rule and On-Farm Readiness Reviews.

What is the new Produce Safety Rule?

In 2011, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to better protect public health by helping ensure food safety at each step of production. The FDA Produce Safety Rule is part of FSMA and focuses on science-based, minimum standards for safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The Produce Safety Rule is meant to help both the farm and the consumer by reducing the likelihood of a foodborne illness outbreak.

There are six components of the Produce Safety Rule that cover the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce. The components include 1) Worker Health, Hygiene and Training; 2) Soil Amendments; 3) Wildlife, Domesticated Animals and Land Use; 4) Agricultural Water; 5) Postharvest Handling and Sanitation; and 6) Records.

How is the Missouri Department of Agriculture involved in produce safety?

The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) is working with FDA and produce growers so FSMA requirements can be met before the compliance dates by:

  1. Developing a Grower Inventory – FDA requires that the state develop and maintain an inventory of growers who are subject to the Rule. Not all farms are subject to the Rule and there are a number of exemptions. Growers should use FDA’s Produce Safety Rule Decision Tree to determine whether their farm is covered by the Rule. Growers who are covered (or are unsure) can receive MDA assistance by first completing the Missouri Produce Farm Survey. To complete the survey, growers can also contact MDA at ProduceSafety@mda.mo.gov or (573) 751-1134.
  2. Providing Grower Training – Participation in a recognized Produce Safety Alliance training is required for growers who are covered by the Produce Safety Rule. MDA is working with University of Missouri Extension to offer opportunities within the state for growers to learn about produce safety and to meet this requirement. For farms not covered by the Rule, Extension has also provided some brief courses that provide an overview of the Rule.
  3. Conducting Farm Reviews - An On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR) is an educational opportunity designed to walk produce growers through what an inspection on their farm may look like before a real inspection is conducted. During the voluntary review, staff from Extension and/or MDA perform a standardized assessment of the farm so growers can see how their practices align with the requirements of the Rule.

    On-Farm Readiness Reviews are designed for producers who:

    • Know they are covered by the FSMA Produce Safety Rule
    • Have completed the Produce Safety Alliance Training
    • Have registered with the Missouri Department of Agriculture as a produce farm

    If you have questions or would like to schedule an On-Farm Readiness Review, contact the Produce Safety Program at ProduceSafety@mda.mo.gov or (573) 751-1134.

What will an inspection look like?

Routine inspections will be completed by MDA Produce Safety Program inspectors. A produce inspection will include pre-visit, visit and post-visit components.

Pre-visit

  • The farm will be contacted by an inspector to schedule a farm visit during the harvest of at least one crop.
  • The inspector will ask some general questions about the farm, including topics such as produce grown on the farm, types of facilities, types of buyers, etc.

Visit

  • The inspector will speak with the owner/manager/food safety manager to become familiar with the farm, produce, facilities, etc.
  • The inspector and farm representative will walk through how produce is grown, harvested, packed and held on the farm.
  • The inspector will review any records required by FSMA.
  • The inspector will recap any observations made during the site visit and records review.

Post-visit

  • The inspector will provide a report to the Produce Safety Program Manager.
  • The farm will be notified of the compliance determination.

How is the Produce Safety Rule different from GAP?

While Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification and the Produce Safety Rule have many similarities, the systems are not the same and are managed by different federal agencies. GAP certification, while it may be required by a buyer, is a voluntary system. The Produce Safety Rule is part of a federal law that applies to all farms that meet the coverage requirements of the Rule. Those businesses that choose to be GAP certified and are also subject to the Produce Safety Rule may be interested in Harmonized GAP. USDA worked with industry to develop the new audit, which better meets the needs of some growers who are subject to multiple reviews.

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