The Food Safety Modernization Act and the Marketing of Fresh Produce

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has important implications for the marketing of fresh produce in the United States. Under FSMA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with crafting, implementing, and enforcing most of the rules that constitute FSMA. In essence, FDA is introducing more frequent food safety inspections and, for the first time, science-based prevention-oriented mandatory standards for different stakeholders in the U.S. food supply chain. These standards pertain to five key areas: food preventive controls; produce safety; import safety; intentional adulteration of food; and sanitary transportation of food.

Since FSMA was enacted in 2011, several rules have slowly yet successfully evolved from the proposal stage to the final stage, with five of the FDA’s seven proposed foundational rules being finalized and published last year. These five rules relate to the areas of food preventive controls, produce safety, and import safety. A rule of particular importance to the fresh produce industry is the produce safety rule, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, which was issued on November 13, 2015. 

For an overview of FSMA’s final foundational rules published so far and a discussion of their possible implications for the U.S. specialty crop industry in terms of costs and benefits, market structure, and public health concerns, click here.

Highlights of the Agricultural Act of 2014 for Specialty Crops

Important implications for the U.S. Specialty Crop industry can be found in several titles of the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill. Key programs to solve critical issues in the industry have been reauthorized and changes related to funding level and matching requirements have been incorporated in some of these programs. For instance, the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMPP), and the Specialty Crop Block Grants program have been reauthorized. Three key farm bill programs that have formed the success of U.S. organic farmers over the past decade: The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI), and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), have also been reauthorized.

Moreover, changes in the definition of a “Retail Food Store” in the Nutrition title allow agricultural producers who market directly to consumers (i.e. Farmers’ Markets, CSAs, roadside stands) to accept SNAP benefits. The feasibility of redeeming these benefits through on-line and mobile transactions will be tested through pilot projects. If these pilot projects prove to be successful and are implemented nationwide, agricultural producers who sell directly to consumers may be able to accept SNAP benefits through on-line and mobile transactions starting in 2017. Overall, this bill contains considerable support for direct-to-consumer marketing, locally or regionally produced agricultural products, Farm-to-School efforts, organic agriculture, and food safety initiatives – all crucial topics for stakeholders in the U.S. Specialty Crop industry. For a summary of these and other important implications, click here.