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$1.9M to Help Hawai‘i Farmers With Food Safety Regulations

August 2, 2018, 12:42 PM HST (Updated August 2, 2018, 12:42 PM)
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The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has joined with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help Hawai‘i food producers comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.

Under the agreement, the FDA will release a total of $1.9 million over the next three years to HDOA to establish and administer a produce safety program. The funds will be used mainly to assess the state’s produce crops and inventory, establish a farm inspection protocol, formulate a multi-year plan to implement the produce safety system, and develop and provide education, outreach and technical assistance to farms regarding the federal rules.

“This newly funded program will be especially helpful to Hawai‘i’s smaller farms by providing guidance and technical assistance so they may comply with the new federal food safety regulations,” said Gov. David Ige. “Supporting farmers in this way will strengthen our food systems and help attain our goal of doubling Hawai‘i’s food production by 2020.”

“Compliance with the Produce Safety Rule is mandatory for produce growers,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture. “We realize that some farmers may need assistance in understanding the new requirements and what they must do to meet the nationwide standards and the new program will be a good resource.”

The cooperative agreement with Hawai‘i is one of three the FDA announced in July—the other states are Kentucky and Mississippi—bringing the total number of partner states to 46, plus American Samoa, raising nationwide federal funding to $32.5 million.

Signed into law in 2011, the FSMA shifted the focus of federal regulators from responding to cases of food contamination to preventing them. The Produce Safety Rule is designed to establish science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The cooperative agreements aim to help the partner states implement a modern produce safety system and develop and provide education, outreach, and technical assistance to farmers who sell or import their products in the U.S.

The FSMA compliance date for larger produce farms (average annual revenue more than $500,000) has been in effect since January 2018 with rules for small farms ($250,000 – $500,000) phasing in in January 2019. The compliance date for very small farms ($25,000 – $250,000) is January 2020.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million Americans get sick from a foodborne illness each year, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that foodborne illnesses cost more than $15.6 billion each year.

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