The proposed rule would establish minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce.
It includes standards for worker training, worker health and hygiene, agricultural water quality, soil treatment, the presence of domesticated animals on produce fields, equipment, tools, and buildings.
Reduction of hazards
The purpose is to reduce microbiological hazards in food intended for raw human consumption, which can lead to foodborne illness.
Standards would not apply to produce that is rarely consumed raw, produce for personal or on-farm consumption, or which is not a raw agricultural commodity.
Produce that receives commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms would be eligible for exemption from the requirements.
FDA said it expected that the proposed rule, if finalized as proposed, would reduce foodborne illness associated with the consumption of contaminated produce.
It estimated that the proposed regulation will prevent 1.75 million foodborne illnesses that result from all covered produce consumed each year.
Ground and surface water
The agency originally thought switching from ground to surface water was considered a cost and time prohibitive.
“Public comment, subsequent to the publication of the proposed rule, has indicated that in some regions current irrigation practices use water that is unlikely to meet the proposed microbial standards for much, if not all of the growing season.
“Consequently, if such standards are finalized, ground water is likely to be explored as a more viable alternative water source for irrigation in these regions than previous information had indicated.”
FDA proposed the standards as part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and deadline for comments ends 15 November 2013.
As of Monday 26 August, almost 1,200 comments had been received on the proposed rule which was posted last week.