Do Small Farms Need A Food Safety Plan?
Small farms as defined by the FDA are small produce farms or mixed-type of facilities with an average annual value of the produce sold, during the previous 3-year period, being less than $25,000 on a rolling basis. In 2018 the FDA adjusted that for inflation to determine that the average 3-year value for 2015-2017 is $26,999. Operations that sell less than that amount are completely exempt from the food safety rules that are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. Does this mean that small farmers are exempt from having a food safety plan?
Most small farmers sell directly to the local community. Their customers trust the farmer to provide a safe food product. Any foodborne illness caused by the contamination of a farm product can lead to financial and legal issues, especially if it causes life-long health problems or death. Foodborne pathogens like listeria, salmonella and E. coli 0157 can pose food safety risks in any size of food operation. Just because the farm is small or organic doesn’t mean the food is safe. Something as simple as an employee coming to work sick with Norovirus or a piece of equipment being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause problems. A solid food safety plan can help control these risks.
Yes, small farmers need a food safety plan. So where to start? There are many resources available to the small farmer to aid in the development of a food safety plan. For example, Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center provides information and trainings in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and other food safety certifications like HACCP. There are also many online resources like Farm Commons for legal matters; Food Safety News for up-to-date information on current food safety risks; the USDA and FDA websites. A food safety plan is key to building a strong, resilient farm business.