FSMA Produce Safety Rule Inspection Updates

Looking to learn more about when and how Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Inspections will happen in California? Read this blog post to learn about the current timeline of California FSMA Inspections on large, small, and very small farms in California.

FSMA Inspection Update

In 2011 Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and President Obama signed it into law. FSMA directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a set of Rules for updating food safety requirements throughout the entire country. This was the first federal update to our food safety requirements in over 70 years. FSMA is a comprehensive law that applies across our food system to farmers, food processors, distributors, processors, transportation companies, importers, and even animal food makers. There are seven main parts, or Rules, of the law and one in particular, the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) applies to farmers. 

The FSMA PSR was drafted and then finalized in 2016. Since then, farmers, regulators, and many people within the industry have been learning what the PSR means for farms. In short, under the FSMA PSR farms fall into three categories: 1) fully exempt, 2) qualified exempt (aka partially exempt), and 3) fully subject. Depending on what category your farm fall’s into directly relates to what your business needs to do to be in compliance. If you are not sure what category under FSMA your farm falls into you can check out this helpful flowchart from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. 

Once you know what category your farm falls under within FSMA you can make a plan for how to be in compliance. Farms that are Qualified Exempt need to keep records to prove that they meet the exemption criteria. Kansas State has a helpful recordkeeping template for Qualified Exempt farms here. 

If your farm needs to be in full compliance with the law (Fully Subject), then there are a number of different practices and records the farm needs to complete to get into compliance. One requirement is for at least one supervisor or responsible party from the farm to attend the FDA Approved produce safety training. At this point there is only one approved training and it is called the Produce Safety Alliance Grower training. You can learn more about the training and upcoming opportunities to attend one here. 

How are farms being inspected to make sure they are in compliance with the FSMA PSR? In California, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has a Produce Safety Program with a staff that completes inspections on farms across the state. You may have received one of their farm questionnaires at some point this last year. In addition to there being three categories of farms in the PSR, there are also three different sizes of farms. The law defines “large” farms as farms with more than $500,000 in gross sales annually. “Small” farms are those with $250,000-500,000 in gross annual sales. “Very small” farms are those with over $25,000 in gross annual sales but under $250,000. These financial thresholds are a little more complicated than just the set numbers listed above. You have to take the last three years of gross sales and average them together and then compare them to the FDA’s Inflation Adjusted numbers, which can be found here. In general, if your gross sales are not within $50,000 of the the financial cut off it’s likely that even with the adjusting the farm will still fall in the very small, small, or large category it started in. For example, if your average gross sales from the last three years is $175,000, it’s likely that once that is adjusted according to the FDA’s tables that the farm will still be considered “small.” 

When will large, small, and very small farms be inspected for FSMA PSR in California? Inspections for Large farms started in April 2019 and will continue moving forward. Inspections for Small farms started this month (January 2020) and will continue moving forward. Inspections for Very Small farms will start in January 2021. You can learn more under the CDFA Produce Safety Program’s FAQs page of their website. You can also learn more from the FDA on Inspection timelines and other FSMA PSR details here. If you are wondering how to prepare for an inspection you can see what CDFA says on that issue here.

Still have questions? We know this food safety stuff is confusing. Check out the CAFF Food Safety Program webpage and see if any of our free resources, webinars, templates, and more can answer your question(s). We will also be hosting food safety trainings at the following upcoming conferences: EcoFarm, North Coast Convergence, and the CA Small Farm Conference. Please come ask us your questions in person and/or contact the food safety staff (scroll down to the bottom of that page) via email or phone.