Produce Safety: FDA Issues FSMA Agricultural Water Rule Extension

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its final rule on phased implementation of water testing under Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations, a/k/a the Produce Safety Rule (PSR). The agricultural water rule outlines a regime of testing for sources of water used to irrigate and wash produce covered by FSMA. Covered produce is generally defined as produce which is normally consumed raw.

The compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements for covered produce (with the exception of sprouts) are January 26, 2024, for “very small businesses,” January 26, 2023, for “small businesses,” and January 26, 2022, for all other businesses. Farms grossing no more than $250,000 annual gross receipts for sale of produce are considered very small businesses, while small businesses sell no more than $500,000 annual gross produce sales. Farms grossing under $25,000 in annual gross sales are exempt.

The PSR requires testing of all agricultural water that comes in contact with harvestable part of produce, as well as that water used in harvest and post-harvest handling (including water used to clean food contact surfaces). Such water comes from ground and surface water sources including ponds, canals, and flowing sources.

In a statement issued Friday, March 15, 2019, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD outlined the agency’s intentions as to how it will use the time leading up to the phased implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Agricultural Water Rule (the “Ag Water Rule”). Commissioner Gottlieb pledged to use the additional time afforded by the extensions to further engage with farmers and water experts to develop water testing requirements that are “modern, efficient, rigorous, and achievable.”