FSMA Produce Safety Inspections Start in California

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Written by Meaghan Donovan on Monday, June 3, 2019

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) started its Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) inspections of produce farms this spring. Produce farms with more than $500,000 in average annual sales may be contacted by CDFA in 2019 for an inspection to verify the farm’s compliance with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

What to Expect During an Inspection

To help orient growers to the FSMA inspection process, CDFA recently published information on what to expect during an inspection. The CDFA Produce Safety Program inspection procedures webpage includes information on the inspection scheduling process, as well as information on the three steps of an on-farm FSMA inspection. 

More detailed information on the inspection process can be found in CDFA’s “What to Expect of a Regulatory Inspection” informational handout for farmers.

CDFA’s Tiered Approach to FSMA Inspections

In 2019, CDFA will focus its FSMA produce safety inspections on large farms fully subject to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, then move on to smaller operations in subsequent years.

Produce farms with more than $500,000 in average annual food sales were required to be in compliance with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule in January 2018. CDFA has begun to verify the compliance of these large farms through on-farm inspections that started this spring.

Produce farms with average annual food sales between $250,000 and $500,000 were required to be in compliance with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule in January 2019. In a press release sent out in February 2019, CDFA indicated that they will not begin inspecting farms that fall into this category until 2020.

Very small operations—those with average annual food sales between $25,000 and $250,000—are not required to be in compliance with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule until January 2020. CDFA has not made an official statement as to when inspections for farms that fall into the $25,000 and $250,000 annual sales range will start.  

Some Farms May Qualify for an Exemption from the FSMA Produce Safety Rule

The FSMA Produce Safety Rule includes exemptions for some operations. Farms with gross annual produce sales less than $25,000 are exempt from the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. Other exemptions are included for some farms that only grow produce for processing (e.g. processing tomatoes) or only grow produce that is rarely eaten raw (e.g. okra). Farms that market directly to consumers (e.g. farmers’ markets, CSAs, or restaurants) may qualify for a partial FSMA exemption. Farms must keep records to document that they qualify for an exemption. 

To find out if your farm qualifies for an exemption, or to learn about FSMA in general, watch the FSMA Basics for Small to Medium Sized Produce Farms webinar or check out the FSMA Basics for Produce Growers blog post.

This information is provided by the CCOF Foundation in good faith, but without warranty. This blog post is intended as an educational resource and not as advice tailored to a specific farm operation or a substitute for actual regulations and guidance from FDA or other regulatory agencies. We will not be responsible or liable directly or indirectly for any consequences resulting from use of information provided in this blog post and/or documents or resources suggested in this blog post.