U. S. FDA - Update to Proposed Food Safety Rules

In September, the U. S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released updated versions of several rules related to food safety.  FDA released the initial proposed rules in January 2013 and took comments until November 2013 (NEBRA's and others' comments are available from the NEBRA office).  Development of these new rules is required under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law by President Obama in January, 2011. 

The current proposed updated rules for growing of produce do not make any changes to the science-based policy for use of biosolids in accordance with exisiting U. S. EPA and other regulatory standards.

However, because of a huge number of comments from farmers, FDA is now proposing more flexible standards for the use of untreated irrigation water, manure, and compost:

  • Farmers who use untreated water for irrigation are being the given some flexibiliity in meeting produce safey standards relating to the levels of potentially harmful microbes in the water.
  • FDA has removed the nine-month waiting period between application of untreated animal manure and harvesting of crops.  The agency will conduct risk assessments to provide more scientific support for a future standard. In the meantime, the standard for uses of animal manures that appear in the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture National Organic Program will be acceptable: 120 days between application of raw manure and harvesting of crops grown in contact with the soil and 90 days for crops not in contact with the soil.  Despite the presence of equal or greater volumes of pathogens in manures as compared to biosolids, the standard for crops in contact with the soil are considerably less stringent than those for Class B biosoilds, which require a 14- or 38-month waiting period.  On the other hand, crops not in contact with the soil where Class B biosolids have been applied can be harvested 30 days after application, according to U. S. EPA standards for biosolids.
  • Use of compost will not be subject to a 45-day waiting period between application and harvest, as was originally proposed: "Properly treated and handled compost is safer than raw manure from a public health standpoint and this change to the proposal would help facilitate its use while still providing an appropriate level of public health protection."

Public comments on the FDA's revised proposed regulations closed December 15th, and the final rules are expected in 2015.