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Expand Your Market Access and Prepare for the FSMA Produce Safety Rule with CCOF

by Jacob Guth |
The berry harvest has started in earnest here on the Central Coast, and some distributors and buyers are asking producers for evidence of a third-party food safety audit. Some are even beginning to ask their suppliers if they are in compliance with the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.  
While CCOF has been certifying operations to the GLOBALG.A.P. standards for the last three seasons, I still hear growers saying they are unaware that we do food safety audits. Yes! We do offer this service, and it’s likely that we offer it at a better price because we are a non-profit organization. CCOF can also certify the non-organic aspects of your farm, so long as some portion of your operation is organic or in transition. 
Our governance board is made up of democratically-elected, certified organic operations, and they have tasked us with developing the capacity and expertise to perform food safety audits by and for the organic community.
What sets us apart for other food safety certification bodies?
We currently have auditors who can perform both your organic and your food safety inspections on the same trip, greatly reducing travel costs and the time we spend on your farm. We are also working on a project, to be completed early summer, that gives CCOF members exclusive access to templates and forms designed to help build your GLOBALG.A.P. manual. No other certifiers have templates for the GLOBALG.A.P. standards. 
CCOF has scaled standards to fit your farm’s needs.
GLOBALG.A.P. has three tiers of certification depending on your farm’s size and intended market. If you’re exporting, the Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) standard helps ensure your crops can go anywhere in the world. IFA certificates are issued in 110 countries, and it is the most widely accept GFSI-benchmarked certificate in the world. 
Smaller and midsized farms selling to the domestic market can obtain GFSI-benchmarked certificates by enrolling in the other tiers we offer. The Harmonized Produce Safety Standard (HPSS) and the Produce Safety Standard (HPSS) are checklists developed specifically for the U.S. market and are widely accepted by domestic buyers. The HPSS checklist is very approachable for smaller producers and we intend to have templates available to make building your own program a reality. 
How can you start preparing for the FSMA Produce Safety Rule?
Produce Safety Rule compliance dates are fast approaching, with the largest growing operations required to comply by January 26, 2018, mid-sized operations by the same date in 2019, and smaller operations by 2020. Please use the following flow chart to determine which FSMA rules apply to your operation and check the compliance dates
Each of the three GLOBALG.A.P. standards (IFA, PSS, HPSS) require compliance to “prevailing local legislation,” which includes the FSMA requirements. Our auditors are thoroughly trained to ensure FSMA rules are being observed on your farm, so undergoing a CCOF audit puts a farm in a great position to handle a visit from the FDA. GLOBALG.A.P. has created a FSMA Self-Assessment guide to highlight the areas where the IFA checklist covers FSMA and where the gaps are. Additional resources for complying to FSMA will be made available by CCOF as 2017 develops, including regional Produce Safety Alliance trainings. 
Should you have food safety questions or wish to schedule your 2017 audit, please feel free to contact me directly at