( Courtesy FDA )

The Food and Drug Administration has a new protocol for the development and registration of treatments for water used on crops before harvest.

The FDA announced the protocol during a July 30 web seminar on its 2020 Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan, referring to Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, which has caused 40 foodborne illness outbreaks from 2009 and 2018, according to the federal agency.

The FDA and Environmental Protection Agency worked on the protocol.

“This new protocol is a huge milestone for produce safety and for the Leafy Green Action Plan released by the FDA earlier this year,” Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response, said in the agency’s announcement. “Working together, the FDA and EPA have supported the development of this protocol that may ultimately help farmers address contamination issues in their water sources and protect consumers from foodborne illness.”

There are no registered antimicrobial treatment products authorized to control “microorganisms of public health significance” for agricultural fields, or treatment of irrigation water systems or ponds, according to an FDA news release.

The protocol is intended to help companies develop data on effectiveness of their products on pathogens including E. coli and salmonella in preharvest agricultural water.

“Teams of FDA experts have been working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to help protect agricultural water from the many ways it can be contaminated in the environment or from unsanitary practices on a farm,” according to the FDA announcement. “This effort has included hundreds of farm visits over the past few years.”

The FDA plans to propose a rule late this year that would revise agricultural water requirements in the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule, according to the announcement.

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