( Courtesy FDA )

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is alerting 8,000 growers designated as “small/very small” by the Food Safety Modernization Act of their obligations to follow the law, and when those obligations start.

The CDFA is mailing letters with surveys to determine what commodities they grow, if they qualify for exemptions, and to prioritize future inspections, according to a CDFA news release. Surveys are due by Aug. 31.

The letters focus on the FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule, which has staggered compliance dates based on annual sales. Starting in April, CDFA inspectors have been visiting “large” farms, which have annual sales of more than $500,000 (based on an average of the past three years).

“Small” operations, with produce sales of $250,000-$500,000 are supposed to be in compliance with the Produce Safety Rule now, but CDFA inspections don’t start until January. “Very small” growers, whose sales are $25,000-$250,000, must be in general compliance in January, with inspections starting in January 2021.

Those compliance dates are in effect with produce growers throughout the country, but California has 20,000 growers who will need to comply with the Produce Safety Rule, far more than any other state, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said in the release.

“Our role is to educate California produce farmers on how to comply with the requirements of the (Produce Safety Rule) and then regulate farms to ensure that they are compliant,” according to the CDFA letter to growers. “Our vision is safe produce through 100% compliance with the law.”

The CDFA created the Produce Safety Program to educate growers and conduct inspections on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the FSMA regulations.

The FDA has an “Educate Then Regulate” commitment, according to the CDFA release, and minor violations will be handled with on-site education. Issues that threaten consumer food safety, however, will be handled with varying degrees of enforcement, up to seizing tainted produce, according to the release.

 
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