Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are responses to some of the commonly received questions about the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Produce Safety Rule.  If you have questions beyond the scope of this list, or would like further explanation, please contact Department of Agriculture Hawaii Produce Safety Program Principal Investigator, Dr. Leo Obaldo at Leonard.G.Obaldo@hawaii.gov or at (808) 832-0705.

How do I know if this rule applies to me?

There are a few exceptions to the Produce Safety Rule.  Exemptions include produce that is: grown for personal consumption; will receive commercial processing; or is rarely consumed raw (such as sweet potatoes).  Additional exemptions are for farms that have less than $25,000 in average annual produce sales. 

My farm is going to be fully covered, when do I need to comply?

Compliance dates are staggered based on the average annual produce sales.

  • Farms with more than $500,000 of average annual produce sales will be fully covered by the rule and will need to comply by Jan. 26, 2018.
  • Farms with more than $250,000 but less than $500,000 of average annual produce sales will need to comply by Jan. 28, 2019.
  • Farms with more than $25,000 but less than $250,000 of average annual produce sales will need to comply by Jan. 27, 2020.

An additional 2 years should be factored in for water testing requirements, unless you are a sprout grower.

A third-party already does GAP audits on my farm, is that enough to comply?

Currently, a GAP audit is not sufficient to comply with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.  However, being GAP certified or having a farm food safety plan will make it easier for you to meet the requirements. Depending on the program you use, you may find that your audit requirements are higher than the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements. Contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture if you have more questions.

Am I required to have a food safety plan?

No, you are not required to have an on-farm food safety plan under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. However, having a plan is an excellent way to organize and manage your safety policies and procedures. Additionally, if you are exempt from the rule, have a food safety plan to show your buyers can demonstrate your commitment to safe produce. Multiple online resources exist to help you create a plan. Find templates and guides by clicking here or here.

I’ve heard that the water testing requirements are changing. What do I need to know?

The FDA is exploring ways to simplify the microbial quality and testing requirements for agricultural water. Until further guidance is released, it is recommended that covered farms use the testing standards currently listed in the Produce Safety Rule.

As someone who eats produce, how will this affect me?

As a consumer, you should still take measures to reduce microbial contamination on fruits and vegetables at home. Steps include:

  • Wash your hands, utensils and surfaces with soap and water before preparing fresh produce.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with clean water before eating or cutting.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating produce with raw meat, poultry or seafood products.
  • Refrigerate perishable fruits and veggies at 40 degrees or below.
  • Do not leave cooked produce out of refrigeration for more than two hours.