Foodborne illness linked to contaminated produce is a public health concern. The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 is the Federal Government’s most recent effort to reduce the risk of microbial contamination that can cause human illness. The law’s “Standards for Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,” commonly known as the “Produce Rule” (PR), may pose a challenge for farms that grow produce and sell into retail markets.
While the PR is the first Federal regulation focusing on microbial food safety at the farm level, retailers have required food safety audits for decades to minimize their risk of being associated with a foodborne illness outbreak. The report finds that food retailers who commonly demand third-party audits of food safety practices are likely to continue doing so, even though the PR does not require such audits. Findings also indicate retailers will likely continue to impose food safety requirements on growers uniformly, rather than spend the time and resources to understand and adhere to the nuances of the PR’s compliance criteria.
For this study, researchers at Cornell University interviewed retailers using questions developed jointly with Economic Research Service economists. The report, Safety Requirements for Produce Growers: Retailer Demands and the Food Safety Modernization Act, provides insights into the food safety policies of U.S. supermarket companies and how these practices and the PR may affect growers.