The US FDA has passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule for handling of produce for human consumption. The intent of the rule to help protect farm workers and consumers and raise the overall quality and safety of the produce we grow and consume in the United States.  You can read about it at the FDA’s website here. Key provisions of the rule cover:

  • Agricultural Water

  • Biological Soil Amendments

  • Sprouts

  • Domesticated And Wild Animals

  • Worker Training and Health and Hygiene, and

  • Equipment, Tools and Buildings

In addition, the final published rule covers exemptions, variances, compliance dates, assistance to industry and released an environmental impact statement which details how the rule will impact the environment.

Agricultural Water

Agricultural water used on produce meant for human consumption has to meet certain water quality standards.  The concerns of the FDA mainly have to do with the presence of microbial contamination in the form of generic E. Coli.  The concern is that the presence of unacceptable levels of E. Coli could indicate fecal contamination. Growers are subjected to two separate standards, depending on how the water will be used in food production and preparation.

1.) Water used for irrigating crops is subjected to an upper limit of E.Coli based on statistical standards that they feel is relatively safe.

2.) On the other hand, water used in the washing of hands, making of ice, washing of countertops and sprout irrigation is under stricter guidelines.  Any level of E Coli detected and the operation must cease until corrective measures can be taken to bring the operation back into compliance.

Biological Soil Amendments

Right now, the FDA is mostly concerning itself with raw manure and compost.

Raw manure

The FDA is conducting testing, but for now is accepting the National Organic Program (NOP’s) standards for use of raw animal waste as a soil amendment.  We’ll be supplying more details in a later post, but for now, understand that the standards the NOP suggests are that applications should take place at least 90 days prior to harvest for crops not in contact with the soil and a minimum of 120 days prior to harvest for any crops in direct contact with the soil.


Stabilized compost has limits of the amount of microbial activity and detectable  bacteria.  Testing includes: Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., fecal coliforms, and E. coli. And, we will also cover the details of these requirements in a later post as well.


Sprouts are being treated as a special case in the rule due to the frequency of foodborne pathogens making their way into the food supply in recent years through sprouts and the fact that they are almost always consumed raw by the final consumer. See the rule for more details.

Are You Exempt?

The FDA created a version of this infographic and flowchart that I modified slightly to fit the format of this webpage.  You can quickly see if the new produce rule is something you need to concern yourself with or something you can safely ignore for now.

farm safety modernization act flowchart


Assistance to Industry

We will be covering all these topic and more, in depth, in later posts that will include assistance that the FDA is offering to participants in industry that find themselves needing to comply with these new rules.