The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is awarding a total of $21.8 million to help 42 states implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) produce safety rule. The rule, which the FDA finalized in November 2015, establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
“As efforts for a nationally integrated food safety system advance, this funding will play a vital role in establishing programs at the state level to educate growers and provide technical assistance to ensure high rates of compliance with the produce safety rule,” said Melinda Plaisier, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the FDA.
In March 2016, the FDA announced the funding opportunity, which was available to all states and U.S. territories, to begin the planning for and development of a state produce safety program.
The cooperative agreement between the FDA and the states provides awardees with the resources to formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system, develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance, and develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of the growers in their farming communities.
State agencies are important because they have a better understanding and knowledge of the specific growing and harvesting practices in their areas and many have long standing relationships with produce growers and produce associations.
States and territories were classified into five tiers of funding eligibility based on the estimated number of farms growing covered produce within their jurisdictions. The funding opportunity is for five years, subject to the availability of funding from Congress. Further information on state awardees can be found here.
“The states were key partners to the FDA as FSMA’s produce safety provisions were being developed. [Friday’s] funding announcement demonstrates the FDA’s commitment to keep working closely with the states as we begin to implement the provisions,” said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA. “A robust federal-state partnership in produce safety will help protect American consumers from food-borne illness and benefit public health.”
Larger farms will need to comply with certain aspects of the produce safety rule requirements beginning in January 2018, with smaller produce operations having additional time to comply. The FDA intends to continue to work with growers to ensure that they understand the provisions and expectations for their implementation.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency is also responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.