( Courtesy FDA )

The Food and Drug Administration is giving smaller farms flexibility on remaining exempt from the Produce Safety Rule even if they shift sales to new buyers.

The change allows small operations who’ve lost buyers, such as those in the foodservice industry, during the pandemic to sell to retail or other segments without their Food Safety Modernization Act exemptions being affected.

“FDA recognizes that providing flexibility to farms to allow them to shift food sales to available buyers during the COVID-19 public health emergency can help reduce food waste and food shortages,” according to the FDA’s May 22 release. “This temporary policy is intended to remain in effect only for the duration of the public health emergency, after which the FDA intends to issue additional guidance. 

Under the FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule, farms that meet the following criteria, are exempt:

  • The farm’s food sales averaged less than $500,000 per year in the previous three years; and
  • The average value of the farm’s sales to qualified end-users exceeded the average value of the farm’s sales to all others during the previous three years.

A qualified end-user is either a consumer, restaurant or retail store in the same state or not more than 275 miles away, according to the FDA.

Max Teplitski, chief science officer for the Produce Marketing Association, in a news release said the organization “welcomes this regulatory flexibility.”

For more information on the pandemic, see The Packer's COVID-19 webpage.

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