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NACWA Weighs in on Food and Drug Administration’s Produce Safety Proposal

Apr 6, 2022

In a letter submitted April 5, NACWA provided comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its proposed update to the Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) 2015 Produce Safety Rule for certain covered produce. This proposed rulemaking would require the farmer or grower of covered produce (namely leafy greens) to conduct an agricultural water assessment of their water source and identify potential microbial outbreak hazards on adjacent nearby farms.

FDA’s update to the FSMA is intended to strengthen protections against pathogen outbreaks (e.g., salmonella, E. coli) before produce is harvested. These types of foodborne illness outbreaks are typically associated with water from irrigation canals that are adjacent to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or other agricultural operations.

To minimize these outbreaks, FDA proposed to required farmers or growers to conduct an agricultural water assessment unless they receive water from a Public Water System or public water supply and can demonstrate through a certificate of compliance that the water has been treated to meet microbial protections under the Safe Drinking Water Act. NACWA and the WateReuse Association are urging FDA to consider extending this exemption to farmers that receive recycled municipal wastewater which includes microbial and pathogen protections under the Clean Water Act, specifically via recreational water quality criteria.

The proposed rule also requires farmers and growers of covered produce to assess the adjacent and nearby lands for potential pathogen outbreak hazards (e.g., does the adjacent land support cattle or could there be pathogen exposure pathways to produce grown from surface water or ponds?). NACWA was concerned initially that farmers would need to include in their assessment adjacent lands that apply municipal biosolids. The proposed rule, however, recognizes that the Clean Water Act and biosolids regulations under 40 CFR Part 503 provide adequate pathogen mitigation and are not reasonably likely to introduce hazards on adjacent or nearby lands.

If members have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs. 

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