FDA ISSUES ENFORCEMENT POLICY GUIDANCE ON PRODUCE SAFETY FOR ALMONDS AND OTHER COMMODITIES: FDA WILL NOT EXPECT ENTITIES GROWING, HARVESTING, PACKING OR HOLDING ALMONDS TO MEET ANY OF THE PRODUCE SAFETY REGULATION REQUIREMENTS

This morning FDA announced they are using enforcement discretion for several commodities covered under Produce Safety Regulations and will not expect those commodities to comply with Produce Safety requirements. Specifically, FDA will not expect entities which grow, harvest, pack or hold almonds to meet any of the Produce Safety Regulation requirements. FDA has indicated that they intend to address the unique situation of each commodity listed in the notice through future rule-making.

In simple terms, almond growers and huller/shellers are no longer subject to Produce Safety Requirements, and do not have to make any disclosures as long as the Enforcement Guidance remains in effect.

The almond industry has taken a proactive role in food safety since 2001, culminating in the mandatory program for Salmonella reduction in almonds – effective September 2007. Since that time, the Almond Board of California, the Almond Alliance of California and other industry organizations/companies have hosted numerous FDA meetings and tours to share the almond industry’s commitment to food safety.

However, ultimately this is a result of the almond industry’s commitment to food safety, from the orchard throughout harvest, hulling/shelling and handling/processing. The Enforcement Policy Guidance issued today by FDA calls out almonds specifically, therefore recognizing the effectiveness of the industry’s food safety programs and the continued diligence that industry members have demonstrated regarding food safety over the past two decades.

ABC appreciates FDA’s efforts to recognize the specifics of the almond industry and the food safety controls currently in place.

According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the Food Safety Modernization Act empowered FDA to implement a more preventive and risk-based approach to food safety.

We’ve worked closely with food producers to implement FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule, which for the first time establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.

In taking this step, we’ve considered the use of unique production processes that reduce the presence of foodborne pathogens. We’re announcing today that we’re not expecting hops, wine grapes, pulse crops and almonds producers to meet the requirements of the rule currently. Given the nature of these specific commodities, and the low risk that these products pose because of the way that they’re processed and consumed, we do not expect producers of these commodities to comply with the Produce Safety Rule.

Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

The FDA notices can be accessed via the links below.