Posts

As a high school teacher in Chicago, in a past career, I was on a school bus headed south to the university campus of Champaign-Urbana, riding through the flat cornfields of Illinois. One of my students pointed out the window and asked, “Dr. Knutson, what are those… factories over there?” My reply was, “that is a farm.” In light of the new FDA guidance, the question is valid. Do on-farm processing steps change a location from a traditional farm to a factory? My previous blog post started with the definitions of supplier, receiving facility, and farm mixed-type facility. Farms are not required to implement a food safety plan, and farm mixed-type facilities have been under enforcement discretion while FDA figures this out. FDA took a giant step in sharing their current thinking on the definitions of produce covered by the Produce Safety rule and the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. FDA recognizes the variety of produce grown on farms and approaches to building in food safety.

Produce Safety Rule Exemptions:

Farms with an annual average revenue under $25,000 are exempt. This makes sense from a public health view. Small farms are not going to cause wide-scale harm, in general. There are other exemptions for farms with an annual average revenue above $25,000 and based on how much is sold directly to customers through a farm stand-like store, local grocery store or restaurant. Another exemption is based on the sale of other products like hay or wine. For farms that don’t know where they fall, my advice is to ask an accountant and attorney to interpret the farm’s sales of commodities regarding the rule. See COVERED FARMS.

Produce is the edible portion of fruits and vegetables for human consumption. Produce grown for animal feed or other uses is exempt from the Produce Safety rule.

Grains are exempt from the Produce Safety rule because grains are always going to be further processed. Produce that is rarely consumed raw (RCR) is exempt from the Produce Safety rule. Examples include potatoes and beans.

Don’t worry about your backyard garden. Produce that is grown for personal use or on-farm consumption is exempt from the Produce Safety rule.

Farm Mixed-type Facilities:

The bottom line is that as soon as produce is processed in any way to make it a new food, the activity is under the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. Most of us understand that roasting of nuts is a processing step that requires preventive controls to create a safe product. The same is true for making bags of chopped lettuce and sliced apples. These raw agricultural commodities (RAC) have been changed into processed food, and processed food is under the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule.

Until now, FDA has been hands-off on processing of RAC on the farm. If processing is done on a farm in a farm mixed-type facility, the process is under the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. The facility must have a written hazard analysis, implement a food safety plan, and have a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI). The FDA is seeking comments on their published guidance for farm mixed-type facilities. In some ways, the FDA guidance seems like too much. Do we really need this for farms? Then I am reminded of Salmonella outbreaks from cantaloupe. In one outbreak the melons were only washed as a processing step, but in such a way as to not remove or kill pathogens. The outbreak covered 28 states with 143 hospitalizations of 147 documented cases. There were 33 deaths. Yes, we need this.

    “If you’re a farmer or anyone processing food whose company is interested in using ConnectFood to write or compile your food safety plan, check out our Enterprise tier. This Enterprise-level subscription allows you to experience full systems management, including having multi-facility supplier management, multi-facility records management, and direct access to food safety experts.” – Matthew Botos, CEO.

The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting LLC
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she has delivered over 20 workshops to the food industry. With 35+ years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an active communicator at all levels of an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in the prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.

As Romaine lettuce is planted in Arizona, the FDA has overwhelmed the produce industry with draft guidance documents. When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed in 2011, the importance of growing, harvesting and processing of fruits and vegetables was recognized as the start of food safety for the familiar term of farm-to-fork. One of FSMA’s foundational rules is the Produce Safety rule. Today we deviate from the traditional focus of the ConnectFood blog at the middle step of the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule to start at the very beginning where crops are grown.

As a Lead Instructor grounded in the latter rule, I have presented dozens of times the difference between a farm as a supplier and a food factory as a receiving facility. In the simple world of instruction those two are obvious. Consider a farm that harvests melons and then washes the melons. Is the location of washing considered a farm and under the Produce Safety rule or considered a receiving facility and under the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule? I don’t want to leave you hanging; I identify the washing facility as a receiving facility and subject to the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. FDA has made my choice clearer with their guidance documents. Across the nation and internationally there are hundreds of examples of farms harvesting a crop and then another step being applied, before the fruits or vegetables reach a traditional food factory.

FDA has done a momentous job in publishing draft guidance for the farm and food industries. See my resources listed below. In keeping with starting at the beginning, key definitions are discussed here.

Supplier: the farm that grows the crop or raises the animal. A supplier to a food factory can in turn be a food factory, e.g., when a food factory purchases dried ingredients. For the purpose of discussion here, the supplier is a farm that grows a crop.

Receiving facility: food factory that receives the crop and registers with FDA as a facility that processes, manufactures, packs or holds food. The draft guidance documents are FDA’s current thinking on the definition of receiving facilities that handle crops. Facilities which in the past have been considered farms must now register as a food facility.

Farm mixed-type facilities: this is the location of the next step after harvesting, but before getting to a traditional food factory like a spaghetti sauce manufacturer. FDA looks at processing, packing and holding. For example, located conveniently to fields are packing houses. In our grocery stores, we find fruits and vegetables that have been washed and chilled, sorted and packed into wrapped trays, mesh bags or boxes. Those steps are considered processing. In the past, FDA has left farm mixed-type facilities as farms, and now FDA sees farm mixed-type facilities as receiving facilities under the enforcement of the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. This is a big change and will cause hundreds of facilities to register as a food facility, implement a food safety plan, and have a trained Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) to oversee food safety.

In my next blog post, read about different types of produce and exemptions from the rules.

Matthew Botos, CEO of ConnectFood, and the whole Expert Services team can guide you.

    “As with all food manufacturing we must focus on “basics done well”, this mean employee training and a focus on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). The FDA has set a very good standard for all produce companies.” – Matthew Botos, CEO, ConnectFood

The folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

Resources:
Guide to Minimize Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Produce: Draft Guidance for Industry

Statement by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on FDA’s new steps to help produce farmers, processors more effectively comply with food safety requirements

Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption: Guidance for Industry, Draft Guidance

AT A GLANCE: KEY POINTS IN THE PRODUCE SAFETY RULE DRAFT GUIDANCE: CHAPTER 1: GENERAL PROVISIONS (SUBPART A)

FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food

FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting LLC
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she has delivered over 20 workshops to the food industry. With 35+ years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an active communicator at all levels of an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in the prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.