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FDA Delaying Compliance for Proposed Pre-Harvest Water Rule for Leafy Greens


It is generally accepted that irrigation water contaminated with Shiga-toxin producing E.coli (STEC) and Salmonella derived from run-off from CAFOs are responsible for outbreaks of foodborne infection of consumers eating leafy greens.


Notwithstanding the epidemiologic realities, FDA has failed to make appropriate changes to the pre- and post-harvest agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule.  The FDA is at fault if, as is stated in their release, that stakeholders "do not have clarity on whether FDA might propose to change the harvest and post-harvest agricultural water requirements." 


FDA has proposed to apply enforcement discretion over water requirements relating to the Produce Safety Rule until January 2023 for large businesses and extending to January 2025 for very small businesses.  Delay in implementing the Produce Rule with respect to irrigation and processing water perpetuates the problem of foodborne infection from leafy greens and places consumers and the industry at risk.  Requiring producers to conduct annual systems-based agricultural water assessments is self-serving and represents “make-belief “ prevention and will do little to eliminate the problems arising from contamination.


The inaction and indecision by FDA is yet another example of why the U.S. needs a dedicated food safety agency.