Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the Produce Safety Program

How do California farmers comply with the Produce Safety Rule?

Farms covered under the Produce Safety Rule must take several steps to comply with this new regulation. Details on these steps, compliance dates and exceptions are provided throughout this website. In general, produce farms must do the following:

  1. Employ an individual who has completed an FDA-recognized Produce Safety Rule Grower Training Course.
  2. Implement required Produce Safety Rule food safety practices on your farm.
  3. Be able to prove that you are following and documenting all required food safety practices.

What happens if a farm does not comply?

Produce Safety Program inspectors operate on behalf of the U.S Food and Drug Administration and are authorized to take action if a farm is found to be out of compliance with the Produce Safety Rule. The Produce Safety Program’s priority is to educate farmers on how to comply with the Produce Safety Rule.

Minor violations will be handled through on-site education, in line with an “Educate Then Regulate” commitment. More egregious conditions may result in voluntary or mandatory product recalls, public notification, administration detention or seizure of product. These actions could cause serious economic or legal consequences for the farm.

Additionally, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) works in conjunction with CDFA’s Produce Safety Program and continues to serve in its role to ensure the safety of California’s food supply. If there is significant and imminent threat to public health, a PSP inspector will inform the FDA and CDPH for evaluation.

When are farms required to comply with the Produce Safety Rule?

Produce Safety Rule compliance dates vary depending on the size and sales volume of a produce farm. Farms designated by the U.S. FDA as "large" are required to comply with the Produce Safety Rule beginning January 26, 2018. Smaller operations will be phased in over the next few years. Below is a chart summarizing the compliance dates for produce farms of all sizes.

Farm Size Definition Compliance Date
Large Farms Produce sales of $500,000 or more per year in average annual produce sales during the previous three-year period. January 26, 2018
Small farms More than $250,000 but no more than $500,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three-year period. January 27, 2019
Very small farms More than $25,000 but no more than $250,000 average annual produce sales during the previous three-year period January 26, 2020

Additional information on compliance dates is available here

For more information on current price index for farm size, please also see FDA’s website: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-inflation-adjusted-cut-offs

Where can farms get information on the food safety practices they must follow?

A full copy of the Produce Safety Rule is available online . Other helpful information and guidance is also available. FDA has announced it is currently prioritizing the finalization of guidance documents to assist farmers in developing on-farm food safety practices. If you are a member of a commodity group or other produce industry association, you may reach out to them for additional information on required food safety practices.

What is involved in completing a Produce Safety Rule Grower Training Course?

All farms covered under the Produce Safety Rule must have an individual employed on the farm who has completed an FDA-approved Produce Safety Rule Grower Training, or equivalent course. In addition, all personnel engaged in the supervision of personnel who handle (contact) covered produce or food contact surfaces must receive training as specified in the Rule.

The Grower Training course provides training to ensure a responsible party employed by the farm understands required food safety practices, can train other employees, and can recognize conditions that could lead to contamination of covered produce and take appropriate action to correct those conditions.

The Grower Training need only be taken once; however, the certificate of completion belongs to the individual and not the farm.

Information on the Produce Safety Rule Grower Training Course and how to register.

What is the cost of a Produce Safety Rule Grower Training Course?

The Produce Safety Alliance has a list of all approved classes being conducted throughout the U.S. along with information on how to register. The cost of these courses can vary. CDFA has received funding from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to subsidize approved Produce Safety Rule Grower Training Courses in California at a reduced cost. A list of these subsidized courses can be found here.

When can a farm expect to be inspected?

Produce Safety Rule inspections for large farms (produce sales greater than $500,000 per year averaged over the previous three-year period) began in the spring of 2019. Inspections will start in January 2020 for small farms (produce sales between $250,000 and $500,000 per year averaged over the previous three-year period).

As farmers prepare for the possibility of a regulatory food safety inspection for the first time ever, it is important to understand the goals and objectives of the Produce Safety Program (PSP) and the resource capacities of the Program. First, the PSP’s role is to educate California produce farmers on how to comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) and then regulate farms to ensure that they are compliant. Our vision is safe produce through 100% compliance with the law. With more than 20,000 farms producing crops that are covered by the PSR, of which approximately 12,000 are identified as large farms, actual on-farm inspections will be conducted on a very small percentage of farms in any given year.

Who will be conducting Produce Safety Rule on-farm inspections?

Produce Safety Rule inspections are being done on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. CDFA has created the Produce Safety Program, a new unit within its Inspection Services Division that will employ FDA-credentialed inspectors to perform Produce Safety Rule inspections on California produce farms. You can learn more about the inspectors here.

How will it be determined which farms will be inspected and when?

At this time, the Produce Safety Program is scheduling farm inspections based on a random selection of large farms and commodity harvest periods following verification of the farm’s status. To assist in this effort, California produce farms are asked to complete the farmer questionnaire.

Will farms be notified in advance that an inspector will be coming to their farm?

Yes. The Produce Safety Program does not intend to conduct unannounced routine inspections under the Produce Safety Rule. Please see the link for what may trigger an unannounced inspection.

What can farmers expect during a Produce Safety Rule inspection?

One way to understand what you should expect during an inspection is to go through the required Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training course (click here for subsidized PSA courses offered throughout California or here for PSA’s website that also lists courses). Another way to understand what to expect is to request an On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR). OFRRs are a personalized discussion about your farming operations and designed to give you a better understanding of what you can expect from a routine Produce Safety Inspection.

For more information on what to expect during a Produce Safety Rule inspection, visit: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/producesafety/inspection_procedures.html

For more information about OFRRs, check here: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/producesafety/educate.html.

Where can California produce farmers get answers to additional questions?

Many commodity groups and produce associations have been very active in developing a broad understanding and knowledge of the Produce Safety Rule and can be a great resource to their membership. Contact your commodity group or produce association if you have additional questions.

Questions can also be directed to CDFA by sending an email to producesafety@cdfa.ca.gov.

Specific questions may also be submitted directly to FDA's Technical Assistance Network (TAN).