U.S. food safety rules tightened

Domestic and foreign producersmustmeet new standards aimed at preventing foodborne illness.

By Judie Steeves G

rowers exporting product to the United States now will have to comply with a new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) ruling which was signed into law there in 2011, but is now final and comes into force this year. It has been described as the “most sweeping reform to food safety laws in more than 70 years in the U.S.” and shifts the focus from responding to contamination, to prevention. Elsie Friesen is Food Safety and Education Specialist with the provincial agriculture ministry and explains the new legislation is a response to prevent food-borne illnesses and ensure consumer health.

Most important for growers exporting to the the Foreign Supplier Verification Ruling and the Produce Safety Ruling requirements for exporters.

The Food and Drug Administration, which enforces the new regulations, expects the same compliance from both domestic growers and importers, so growers who intend to have their product shipped to the U.S. need to meet the Produce Safety Ruling, and their packer will have to verify that. “Packers who export out of Canada need to meet global buyer expectations of ensuring that food safe practices have started at the farm/grower level,” she explains.

Record-keeping is an important part of practicing food safety, including methods of pesticide application, knowing through water testing if the water is safe to use for irrigation and production and safe handling practices during harvest, she explains. Growers must have an On-farm Food Safety Program (OFFS) which can be audited.

For instance, production water such as that used for irrigation taken from an

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Sampling the source is the only way to determine if the water has a high level of risk, she notes. Production water is considered to include that used in mixing pesticides and cleaning equipment as well as irrigation and water used on the produce up to harvesting. Water used after harvesting is considered the processing stage, where potable water is required.

Friesen says there are computer apps which will calculate the corrective action required once the water test result is put in.

Elsie Friesen

open source must be tested and then corrective actions need to be taken, if necessary, to eliminate any risk to food safety.

“The corrective action that needs to be taken if test samples fail will depend on what level of risk is determined, explains Friesen.

“It could include pre-harvest interval times between irrigation and harvesting. So if the risk is low, then waiting 24 hours prior to harvest may be all that is required. They have determined four different pre-harvest intervals (from 24 hours to up to four days).

“If the risk level is beyond that, then they may have to look for treatment options, or another source. The risk level corrective action is determined by the Microbial Water Quality Profile of 20 samples taken over four years to have a measure of assurance,” she explains.

She emphasizes that water testing is a very important way to determine water quality and when corrective action needs to be taken.

Growers not using potable drinking water for irrigation will have to sample their water five times a year for four years to determine if their water is safe to use or will require corrective action. This means that compliance with the new act on production water has been extended for four years.

However, on the whole, she says growers who are certified under CanadaGAP will already meet many of the requirements of the new U.S. food safety act. Details of the new U.S. act are available online at: MA/

Cranberries are exempt from the new rules because it’s considered they are rarely eaten raw. As well, produce that is processed commercially in a way that ‘adequately reduces the presence of micro-organisms of public health significance, under certain conditions,” is also exempt.

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