FDA Deadline Extension: Agricultural Water Standards Compliance
Demonstrating that submitting comments to the FDA can pay dividends, the FDA announced on June 6, 2017 that it will extend the compliance dates for agricultural water standards contained within the Produce Safety Rule.
The Produce Safety Rule is one of the seven rules adopted under the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and the agricultural water standards set criteria for microbial water quality based on the presence of generic E. coli and adopts general testing requirements. According to the FDA, “[a]gricultural water can be a major conduit of pathogens that can contaminate produce. That is why FSMA’s produce safety rule sets microbial quality standards for agricultural water, including irrigation water that comes into contact with produce.”
The FDA decided to extend the deadline “after receiving feedback from stakeholders that some of the requirements are too complex to understand and implement.” The water standards are only 136 pages of the 801 page final Produce Safety Rule. This extension has been in the works for some time, but when the formal extension will be issued and how long the extension will be is still not known.
To its credit, the FDA intends to work with stakeholders to simplify compliance while still meeting the objectives of FSMA. In the meantime, the FDA expects growers to review practices, processes and procedures related to agricultural water and how it is used in the production of food products.