The FDA has announced increased flexibility in the Produce Safety Rule exemption included in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), effective for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency.
According to the FSMA, farms can receive qualified exempt status, and thus be excused from complying with many of the FSMA’s requirements, by meeting two criteria: 1) average inflation-adjusted food sales of less than $500,000 for the previous three years, and 2) a majority of food sales to “qualified end users.” (Qualified end users are either the consumer of the food, or restaurants/retailers within a specified distance of the farm.)
The current change relaxes the second criterion. For the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency, farms can shift their sales to buyers other than “qualified end users” without forfeiting their exempt status. This is in acknowledgment that many restaurants and retailers have had to reduce purchasing, or close altogether, in response to the pandemic.