Food & Drug Protection Division
Produce Safety Program
The Produce Safety Program: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services (NCDA&CS) Produce Safety Program, developed under a cooperative agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), provides support to North Carolina fresh produce farmers through education and outreach to build knowledge of the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) and assist in developing programs responsive to the PSR. The Produce Safety Program collaborates with NC State University, NCDA&CS Research Stations, and other key stakeholders, such as the NC Fresh Produce Safety Task Force, to provide assistance and technical support to the farming community. In addition to providing education and outreach, the Produce Safety Program is also tasked with conducting produce safety inspections to determine compliance with the Produce Safety Rule.
The Produce Safety Rule: The Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA, signed into law in 2011, establishes a “farm to fork” approach to food safety with a focus on prevention. The Produce Safety Rule (PSR), one of the rules associated with FSMA, establishes science based, minimum standards for the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables. Farms that produce fresh fruits and vegetables commonly consumed raw may be subject to regulatory inspection due to the PSR, however there are exemptions to the rule.
North Carolina Agribusiness: North Carolina agribusiness is fortunate to have strong leadership in NCDA&CS that supports a food safety culture and investments in food safety efforts; this leadership is evident at the highest level. NC Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, Past President of NASDA, and Joe Reardon, Assistant Commissioner for Consumer Protection, have been strong advocates, at the state and national level, for the role of State agencies, optimally State Departments of Agriculture, in developing and delivering outreach, education and inspection programs responsive to the regulatory mandates of the PSR.
Mission: Ensuring North Carolina produce farms are in compliance with the FDA’s Produce Safety Rule for the health of consumers through continuous outreach and education before and while we regulate.
On-Farm Readiness Review:
What is an On-Farm Readiness Review? An On-Farm Readiness Review (OFRR) is a voluntary, educational, non-regulatory, and confidential review of a farm’s readiness for compliance with the PSR. OFRRs provide farmers with information and resources to assist in meeting the requirements of the PSR and prepare for inspections. During an OFRR, a farmer has access to produce safety experts that will evaluate on-farm practices and conditions to provide feedback on what is going well and identify opportunities for improvement in food safety practices. The reviewers will provide resources to enhance produce safety practices and will suggest produce safety improvements specific to the farm.
Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Courses:
What is a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course? A Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training Course is a one-day course that will teach farmers and farm workers about the importance of farm food safety, as well as the skills needed to implement those practices. It will cover the FSMA PSR, good agricultural practices, and co-management of natural resources and food safety. Attending a Grower Training Course will satisfy the requirement for covered farms in the PSR that states at least one supervisor must successfully complete a food safety training recognized as adequate by the FDA. It is recommended that growers attend a PSA Grower Training Course prior to having an OFRR.
Register to attend a PSA Grower Training Course. Click on THIS link to see the scheduled PSA Grower Training Courses offered in North Carolina. If you don’t see a course that fits your schedule contact your local NC Extension Office and let them know.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who conducts farm inspections? A member of the NCDA&CS Produce Safety Program team who has been trained in produce safety standards will observe on-farm practices, conditions, and review required records. Inspectors are unbiased, consistent, and their goal is to protect the food supply for the health of consumers.
Are farm inspections scheduled or unannounced? In most cases, farm inspections are scheduled and there is a pre-inspection call so you know when your inspection will be conducted and who will be coming on to your farm to conduct the inspection. The pre-inspection call confirms the commodities grown and farm activities occurring, inspector’s information, biosecurity practices, farm’s policies, and ensures that the owner or produce safety manager will be present at the inspection. Under certain circumstances a farm inspection may be unannounced, typically due to previous produce safety issues on the farm that require follow-up, or complaints, recalls, or foodborne outbreaks associated with the farm.
Who conducts On-Farm Readiness Reviews? OFRRs are conducted jointly by the NCDA&CS Produce Safety Program and North Carolina State University Extension along with yourself. You are also welcome to invite anyone else you would like to join along. OFRRs are solely for the purpose of outreach and education, an OFRR is not an inspection or audit.
What can I expect during an On-Farm Readiness Review? The OFRR begins with a discussion on what commodities are grown, harvested, packed, and held as well as produce safety practices, and farm procedures. Then, the team will view growing, harvesting, washing, packing, storing, and holding practices. It will conclude with feedback and the opportunity to request technical assistance regarding produce safety practices on your farm.
What happens if a public health hazard is found on my farm during an On-Farm Readiness Review? In the rare instance that a serious condition is observed that could be considered egregious, or one that could create an imminent public health hazard if corrective action is not taken immediately, the regulator on the OFRR team will assess the situation to determine if any additional action is necessary in order to protect public health. The farmer will be engaged throughout this process and it is the intention of the program to immediately address any serious concerns on-site during the OFRR.
What can I expect at a Grower Training Course? The course will be a one-day lecture on farm food safety practices. You will have the opportunity to participate in discussions and ask questions. Then, you will be able to take the training manual home with you for reference.
Who should request/attend an On-Farm Readiness Review or Grower Training Course? Any farm that grows, harvests, packs, or holds produce crops covered by the PSR is eligible to request an OFRR or attend a PSA Grower Training Course. It is recommended that at least one person from the farm complete the PSA Grower Training Course before scheduling an OFRR.
What produce crops ARE covered by the Produce Safety Rule? Almonds, apples, apricots, apriums, Artichokes- globe-type, Asian pears, avocados, babacos, bananas, Belgian endive, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, brazil nuts, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, burdock, cabbages, Chinese cabbages (Bok Choy, mustard, and Napa), cantaloupes, carambolas, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chayote fruit, cherries (sweet), chestnuts, chicory (roots and tops), citrus (such as clementine, grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarin, oranges, tangerines, tangors, and uniq fruit), cowpea beans, cress-garden, cucumbers, curly endive, currants, dandelion leaves, fennel-Florence, garlic, genip, gooseberries, grapes, green beans, guavas, herbs (such as basil, chives, cilantro, oregano, and parsley), honeydew, huckleberries, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kiwifruit, kohlrabi, kumquats, leek, lettuce, lychees, macadamia nuts, mangos, other melons (such as Canary, Crenshaw and Persian), mulberries, mushrooms, mustard greens, nectarines, onions, papayas, parsnips, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peas, peas-pigeon, peppers (such as bell and hot), pine nuts, pineapples, plantains, plums, plumcots, quince, radishes, raspberries, rhubarb, rutabagas, scallions, shallots, snow peas, soursop, spinach, sprouts (such as alfalfa and mung bean), strawberries, summer squash (such as patty pan, yellow and zucchini), sweetsop, Swiss chard, taro, tomatoes, turmeric, turnips (roots and tops), walnuts, watercress, watermelons, and yams.
What produce crops are NOT covered by the Produce Safety Rule? Asparagus; black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans; garden beets, (roots and tops) and sugar beets; cashews; sour cherries; chickpeas; cocoa beans; coffee beans; collards; sweet corn; cranberries; dates; dill (seeds and weed); eggplants; figs; ginger; horseradish; hazelnuts; lentils; okra; peanuts; pecans; peppermint; potatoes; pumpkins; winter squash; sweet potatoes; and water chestnuts.
Why is the Produce Safety Rule important? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, farms covered by the rule will be held to certain standards designed to reduce the presence of potentially dangerous bacteria in the food supply, with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of illnesses caused by contaminated produce.
Resources:Produce Safety Program Staff Contacts:
Chris Harris. Produce Program Manager. Office: (919) 614-3082. Cell: (919) 270-0990. Email: Chris.Harris@ncagr.gov
Sheyrl Colclough. Administrative Officer. Office: (919) 715-2632. Email: Sheyrl.Colclough@ncagr.gov
David Hurley. Grant Manager & Administrative Officer. Office: (919) 733-7366. Email: David. Hurley@ncagr.gov
Allison Pitts. Produce Compliance Officer. Office: (919) 612-6456. Cell: (252) 801-6103. Email: Allison.Pitts@ncagr.gov
Sarah Cope. Outreach Coordinator. Office: (919) 612-7049. Cell: (919) 219-4716. Email: Sarah.Cope@ncagr.gov
Bryan Harris. Produce Regulatory Specialist- Eastern/Central NC. Email: Bryan.Harris@ncagr.gov
Debra Harmon. Produce Regulatory Specialist- Central/Piedmont NC. Email: Debra.Harmon@ncagr.gov
Lucy Love. Produce Regulatory Specialist- Piedmont/Western NC. Email: Lucy.Love@ncagr.gov
Stan Biconish. Ag Program Specialist. Email: Stan.Biconish@ncagr.gov
Fill out THIS form to provide the Produce Safety Program with any comments or questions to help you better understand the FSMA Produce Safety Rule or to help prepare you for produce safety inspections. You can submit your questions anonymously or provide us with your contact information so we can provide a response.
Funding for this publication was made possible in part by the Food and Drug Administration through grant PAR-16-137. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does any mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organization imply endorsement by the United States Government.