CDFA Announces New Produce Safety Program
CDFA announced last week the creation of a new unit within its Inspection Services Division which will be responsible for educating California produce farmers about new Produce Safety Rule regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act and for conducting routine on-farm inspections of California produce farms to verify they are in compliance.
According to a CDFA press release, this new unit, called the Produce Safety Program, will spend 2018 educating California’s produce industry about the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule. On-farm inspections will not take place until 2019. At that time, the Produce Safety Program will begin conducting inspections of California produce farms on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Produce Safety Program inspectors are employees of CDFA, but are credentialed by the FDA and thus have special training and education. CDFA is working collaboratively with FDA to implement Produce Safety Rule regulations, as are State Departments of Agriculture throughout the country.
The new requirements of the Produce Safety Rule became mandatory throughout the nation on January 26th for farms designated as “large” which means they have $500,000 or more in annual sales. Most farms who grow leafy greens under the LGMA would be characterized as large under this definition. Smaller farms will be phased in over the next few years. In total, it’s estimated there are some 20,000 fruit, vegetable and nut farms in California that will fall under the Produce Safety Rule.
CDFA emphasizes it will be a big job and has stated it will need to work closely with the California produce industry to achieve its goal of 100% compliance with the Produce Safety Rule on California Farms.
The LGMA has been working closely with both the U.S. FDA and CDFA to ensure our food safety program works in conjunction with efforts to enforce the Produce Safety Rule. In August, the LGMA Board approved revised metrics so that our required food safety practices are in full compliance with the Produce Safety Rule. We have since received confirmation from FDA that these revised metrics do indeed align with the requirements of the new regulations. In many cases, the LGMA metrics continue to go beyond what is required by FDA. Working from the revised metrics, CDFA will begin using an updated audit checklist that is Produce Safety Rule-compliant checklist for all LGMA government audits beginning April 1.
Because of these actions, CDFA has informed us that California farms who grow leafy greens for certified LGMA members will be considered compliant with the Produce Safety Rule. More details will be coming as we get closer to April 1, when the LGMA’s new compliance year begins. In the meantime, we want LGMA members to know that FDA will be able to validate compliance with the Produce Safety Rule on farms who grow your leafy greens without the need for additional and duplicative inspections when Produce Safety Program begins inspecting farms in 2019. CDFA has recognized the efforts of the LGMA to establish a culture of food safety on the farm and they acknowledge that mandatory government audits are already taking place on California leafy greens farms who operate under the LGMA.
As a reminder, under the LGMA program every handler-member continues to be audited by the government an average of 5 times over the course of the year, with one unannounced audit, and every farmer is audited at least once per year.
This recognition by government agencies at FDA and CDFA is welcome news to the LGMA, our members and produce buyers. The LGMA is pleased to see the addition of this new unit at CDFA to provide government inspections throughout California’s produce industry. And we look forward to additional oversight provided by the Produce Safety Program to further validate that leafy greens are being farmed safely.