Farm workers

Proposed new rules affecting produce handling in order to improve safety and decrease the risks of foodborne illness outbreaks will only be enforced in approximately 20 percent of producers, reports Food Safety News.

The updated rules for produce safety, as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, are being embraced by food safety advocates around the country, but according to Food Safety News, nearly 79 percent of producers “will not be covered by the produce rule because they grow products that are rarely consumed raw, make under $25,000 annually or qualify for a small farm exemption.” And says Food Safety News, “the vast majority of farms will likely be exempt from the rule when it takes effect.”

Produce Marketing Association lobbyist Tom O’Brien told Food Safety News that the exemptions, “caused in part by the Tester amendment, a provision sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) to exempt small farms that sell mostly locally — will become “more controversial” as people realize just how widely they will apply.” According to the FDA, the new rules would cost the nation’s produce industry nearly $500 million per year. But Food Safety News reports that initially average costs for small farms complying with the proposed rule “would be $20,470; for large farms it would be $38,133. The average recurring costs to industry, the agency estimates, would be $10,507 for small farms and $24,401 for large.”

The exemptions were pushed through by pressure from produce giants including Chiquita and Del Monte who fought against the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and small-scale farm supporters who wanted exemptions for smaller farms. But says Food Safety News, “Congress ultimately adopted the exemption, which applies to farms making less than $500,000 on average each year (for at least three years), and who sell more than half of their produce directly to consumers (anywhere) or to retailers or restaurants within the same state or a 275 mile radius of their farm.”

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