The US Food and Drug Administration has awarded a total of $21.8 million to support 42 states to help implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) produce safety rule.

This rule, which the FDA completed in November 2015, establishes science-based minimum standards for safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.

“As efforts for a nationally integrated food safety system advance, this funding will play a vital role in establishing programs at the state level to educate growers and provide technical assistance to ensure high rates of compliance with the produce safety rule,” said Melinda Plaisier, FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

In March 2016, the agency announced the funding opportunity, which was available to all states and US territories, to begin planning for and development of a state produce safety program.

The cooperative agreement between the FDA and states provides awardees with resources to formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system; develop and provide education, outreach, and technical assistance; and develop programs to address specific needs of growers in their communities. State agencies have a better understanding and knowledge of specific growing and harvesting practices in their areas, and many have long-standing relationships with produce growers and produce associations.

States and territories were classified into five tiers of funding eligibility based on the estimated number of farms growing covered produce within their jurisdictions. The funding opportunity is for five years, subject to the availability of funding from the US Congress.

“The states were key partners to the FDA as FSMA’s produce safety provisions were being developed,” said Dr Stephen Ostroff, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “Today’s funding announcement demonstrates the FDA’s commitment to keep working closely with the states as we begin to implement the provisions. A robust federal-state partnership in produce safety will help protect American consumers from foodborne illness and benefit public health.”

Larger farms will need to comply with certain aspects of the produce safety rule requirements beginning in January 2018, with smaller produce operations having more time to comply. The FDA will continue to work with growers to ensure they understand the provisions and expectations for their implementation.

Access www.fda.gov for further information.