On January 26th, 2016, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) became law, requiring growers and harvesters to demonstrate that their policies, procedures and workers all comply with food safety practices. Under the FSMA law timelines for growers to demonstrate compliance as determined by the size of their business were established. Here are the FSMA compliance dates along with exemptions:

FSMA Compliance Dates

  • Very small businesses: More than $25,000 but no more than $250,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three-year period – January 26, 2020
  • Small businesses: More than $250,000 but no more than $500,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three-year period – January 26, 2019
  • All other farms:  January 26, 2018

FSMA Exemptions

The Rule does not apply to:

  • Farms that have an average annual value of produce sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less
  • Or a qualified exemption based on two requirements:
    • The farm must have food sales averaging less than $500,000 per year during the previous three years; and
    • The farm’s sales to qualified end-users must exceed sales to all others combined during the previous three years. A qualified end-user is either (a) the consumer of the food or (b) a restaurant or retail food establishment that is located in the same state or the same Indian reservation as the farm or not more than 275 miles away.

A majority of the FSMA requirements reflect the practices California avocado growers already have in place, but additional documentation of those practices will be required. One key difference between the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and the California Avocado Commission’s (Commission) current Food Safety program is in the Agricultural Water section, specifically increased testing frequency. Another difference is that the Rule disallows the harvesting of windfall fruit. Greater detail about these changes can be found in the CALIFORNIA AVOCADO GROWER’S GUIDE TO NEW FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS.

In addition to FSMA law, however, are food safety certification requirements from buyers. In most instances buyers are not providing exemptions for fresh produce, including California avocados. Therefore, even if you are exempt under FSMA, you are strongly encouraged to become Food Safety certified.

Some buyers will require audit certification no later than January, 2018, that complies with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards. As such, the Commission has modified the Food Safety manual to support a grower audit against the GFSI standard. If you are interested in learning more about becoming GFSI certified, the Commission recommends you first talk with your handler. Most handlers have staff who are experienced with assisting growers prepare for the audit process. The Commission also has Food Safety manuals available for growers upon request.

Pursuing or maintaining Food Safety certification is one of the key steps California avocado growers can take to ensure they will have a market for their fruit in coming years. The Commission has a variety of additional food safety resources available, including:

For further information about the Commission’s Food Safety Program please contact the Commission at 949-341-1955 or [email protected].