FDA Releases Final Rule on Agricultural Water

  • May 06, 2024

On May 2, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published the Final Rule for Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption Relating to Agricultural Water.

The Western Growers Science Team examined the rule and notes the following changes that replace the pre-harvest agricultural water requirements in the 2015 produce safety rule. (A summary of those changes can be found in Table 3 of the Rule).

  • The following pre-harvest assessments for hazard identification will replace the microbial quality criteria and test requirement of 2015. Evaluation of:
    • Water system — including the location of the ground or surface water source, type of delivery system and the degree to which it is protected against contamination
    • Water practices — water application (spray versus drip) and time interval between direct application of water and harvest of the produce
    • Crop characteristics — crop susceptibility to surface adhesion or internalization of hazards
    • Environmental conditions including the frequency of heavy rain or extreme weather, air temperatures and sun exposure
    • Impacts from adjacent land use
  • Pre-harvest agricultural water will have to be tested in certain circumstances for generic coli
  • Expedited implementation (no later than the same growing season as the assessment/reassessment) of mitigation measures for known or reasonably foreseeable hazards related to adjacent land use
  • A list of additional mitigation measures including repairs, timing of irrigation prior to harvesting, and water application method
  • Management review of pre-harvest water assessments

Compliance dates are based on the size of the operation:

  • Very small farms — 2 years, 9 months after Final Rule effective date
  • Small farms — 1 year, 9 months after Final Rule effective date
  • All other farms — 9 months after Final Rule effective date

For more information, growers are encouraged to review the FDA Fact Sheet concerning the Rule.

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