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Food Safety Foundation — Brian Dunning, Chairman, Almond Quality and Food Safety Committee
Although Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls compliance dates are already in effect for some handlers, most still have time to prepare. As an industry, we are well positioned to adapt to the changes because we have aggressively created and implemented so many programs that are in line with FSMA requirements. In fact, with a bit more effort, we can modify our programs and practices to comply. If you are a handler or huller/sheller who is covered under Preventive Controls, I encourage you to take the Preventive Controls Qualified Individual Training on April 24–26 in Modesto. RSVP to Jayme Puthoff at (209) 343-3279. Growers will find that a lot of the Produce Safety (PS) requirements are very similar to ABC’s “Good Agricultural Practices for Almond Growers,” and if you are GAP audited, PS rules should be very familiar. Additionally, although GAPs are encouraged, an exemption to the Produce Safety Rule for growers (or those covered under a “farm” definition”) is possible. Please see this article for the steps to receive the exemption. Stay tuned for a FSMA Files column in coming newsletters. This column will cover frequently asked question and guidance on compliance with the new rules. In addition, our FSMA webinar series will begin in late spring.
Drought Management "What Ifs"
With some rainfall (and snow in the mountains) in November and December, the water availability picture may brighten somewhat, but as Dr. Ken Shackel, UC Davis, said at an Almond Conference workshop on Irrigation Strategies for Drought Management, “No one has to be told we’re having a drought — it’s serious.”
Almonds Popular at Ag Day at The Capitol
Assemblymember Rocky Chavez visits the Almond Board booth during Ag Day at the Capitol March 22. He is flanked by Almond Board’s (from left) Bunnie Ibrahim, Toni Arellano and Beth Van Meter.Almond Board of California (ABC) celebrated agriculture with a booth at Ag Day at the Capitol on March 22 in Sacramento. The event brought together farmers, processors, crop groups and more, so the public could learn about the significance of agriculture in our lives. More than 1,000 people attended Ag Day at the Capitol, where visitors to Almond Board’s booth learned about the California Almond community’s commitment to growing almonds that are not only good for you, but also good for local communities and the environment. Almond recipes and children’s activity books were on hand for booth visitors and, of course, snacks in the form of delicious California Almonds! We gave away more than 1,200 snack packs! Elected officials and their staffs also toured the event, and several stopped by to visit at the Almond Board booth. When Assemblymember Rocky Chavez of Oceanside dropped in, he shared stories of working in almond harvest during his college days at California State University, Chico. “Ag Day at the Capitol is such a great event, because we get to share almonds and our community’s story with so many people,” said ABC’s Government Affairs analyst Bunnie Ibrahim. “I’d say the best part is that the visitors all tell us how much they love almonds! That’s always so nice to hear.”
About Almond Board
About Almond Board of California In 1950, almond growers asked the United States Department of Agriculture to approve a Federal Marketing Order, so they could all work together to improve the quality and marketing of their crop. At that time, the Almond Board of California (then called the Almond Control Board) dealt primarily with compliance issues. Over the years, our scope has broadened. While compliance is still a crucial part of our activities, the Almond Board now engages in production, nutrition and market research, advertising and promotion in domestic and international markets, quality control and statistical analysis and dissemination. Today we call ourselves an agricultural promotion group to help people better understand various types of marketing orders. Agricultural promotion groups work in different ways, but essentially they are founded and funded by industry members. In our case, almond handlers contribute an annual assessment on the marketable kernel weight of almonds to fund Almond Board marketing and research programs. The Almond Board of Directors is composed of ten members. The more than 6,500 almond growers and 104 almond handlers elect five almond growers and five almond handlers in an annual election. Once elected, the Board of Directors elects its chair and vice-chair. The Board of Directors members give the chair the authority to appoint individuals to standing committees. Board and committee members serve without compensation. The Board is responsible for establishing policy, recommending budgets and programs to the Secretary of Agriculture for approval, and reviewing program results and effectiveness. All programs approved by the Board of Directors are implemented and managed by Almond Board staff with messaging and program oversight from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This ensures that all of our messages comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. As a Federal Marketing Order, it is important to note that the Almond Board is not involved with and is expressly prohibited from setting field or market prices.
FSMA Files: Straight Talk from the Experts – All About Compliance
Welcome back to our FSMA Files column! This month, we’re focusing on questions we’ve received regarding FSMA compliance dates. These questions are timely, as FDA recently announced a delay in the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. We’ve also fielded a number of questions about whether operations are considered farms or facilities and how to cancel a facility registration with the FDA. Please keep your questions coming! You can send them to Tim Birmingham at email@example.com with the subject line “FSMA Files,” and we’ll be sure to address them in upcoming columns. Question: When does FSMA compliance begin? Straight Talk: Your FSMA compliance dates depend on the specific rule that applies to you. This is related to the size of your business and whether FDA has delayed any portions of the rule applicable to you. For example, FDA has delayed the compliance dates for the written assurance of commercial processing requirements in the Produce Safety, Preventive Controls and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) Rules and has announced plans to delay the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. For a better idea of how different rules apply to different business, read on. Explanation: Each FSMA rule has its own set of compliance dates. These dates vary based on the size of the operation, as defined under each rule. Generally, a “large business” is a business with more than 500 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees. A “small business” is typically defined as fewer than 500 FTE employees. Each of the rules has its own definition of a “very small business,” which is based on food sales plus the value of food held without sale (see the next question below regarding these dollar amounts). In addition, due to various comments regarding implementation challenges, FDA has delayed the compliance date for certain components of the rules. Specifically, FDA has announced plans to delay the compliance date for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. The original compliance dates for these requirements were set to begin in January 2020 (but certain sampling would have had to begin sooner). FDA is exploring ways to simplify these requirements after receiving feedback from stakeholders that some aspects of the rules are too complex to understand and implement. FDA has not yet determined the new compliance dates, as “the length of the extension is under consideration.” Other extended compliance dates address: The requirement to obtain customer assurances for food that will be subject to further processing. Note that the original compliance dates remain in effect for the requirement to disclose that a hazard has not been controlled when relying on a subsequent entity to control the hazard. Compliance with the Preventive Controls rules for facilities solely engaged in packing and/or holding activities conducted on nut hulls and shells. This extension covers almond brown skin facilities that only size, sort, grade or pack almonds, as well as facilities that only hull and shell almonds, as long as the facility does not engage in manufacturing or processing activities (i.e., chopping, grinding, mixing, roasting, pasteurizing, salting). Compliance with the Preventive Controls rules for facilities that would qualify as “secondary activities farms” except for ownership of the facility. Facilities that meet the definition of “secondary activities farms” except for the ownership criterion can take advantage of an extension for compliance with the Preventive Controls rule if: The operation is not located on the primary production farm; The operation is devoted to harvesting, packing and/or holding of raw agricultural commodities (RACs) (including operations that hull, shell and/or dry nuts without additional manufacturing); and The operation is under common ownership with the primary production farm that grows, harvests and/or raises the majority of the RACs harvested, packed and/or held by the operation. Examples of common ownership include: An operation owned by (or that owns) one or more primary production farms (e.g., a packing house owned by a cooperative of individual farms) Operations that are managed within the same business structure as the primary production farm (e.g., the farm and packinghouse are separate operations owned by parents and their children, respectively, and both operations are part of the same business jointly owned by the parents and the children) In general, FDA has delayed compliance by two years in order to align the Preventive Controls rule compliance date with the Produce Safety rule compliance date for those facilities that can look to the Produce for compliance guidelines. For specific compliance dates with each of the FSMA rules, please explore the resources available at almonds.com/processors/fsma. Question: What is the definition of a “very small business” for the purposes of determining FSMA compliance dates? Straight Talk: Each of the FSMA rules has its own definition of a “very small business”. “Very small businesses” are typically exempt from complying with the rule. Determining whether or not you qualify for this exemption is based on the dollar value of sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee). There are baseline values set in each of the FSMA rules, but FDA will adjust these values over time due to inflation. Thus, the exact cutoff value will change from year to year. Basic guidance is provided in the table below. Explanation: Each FSMA rule has its own definition of a “very small business” based on the value of food sales and food held without sale. “Very small businesses” are exempt from rule compliance due to their size, as defined by sales. The rationale is that these operations do not have the resources to comply with the rule and exempting them represents a low risk to the food supply. Because the compliance obligations and risks are different from rule to rule, the sales values that determine the definition are different as well. An operation must review the definitions in each FSMA rule to determine whether it meets the definition and to determine its compliance date. FDA will adjust the baseline values established in the regulations for inflation at the end of March each year. To do this, FDA will use the federal calculation for the gross domestic product price deflator, provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Below we provide a table with the average three-year inflation-adjusted values for the FSMA rules, which are the values that need to be taken into account when determining whether an entity meets the very-small-business-related definitions under the various FSMA rules as of 2017. By way of example, the Preventive Controls for Human Food definition of “very small business” includes a threshold of an average of “less than $1 million, adjusted for inflation, per year, during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year in sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee)” (emphasis added). Using the inflation-adjusted values provided by FDA, in 2017 a facility’s average annual income now would need to be below $1,065,291 to qualify as a “very small business.” FSMA Inflation-Adjusted Cut Off Values Regulation and Definition Baseline Value for Cut-offs (2011) Average 3-Year Value for 2014 - 2016 Preventive Controls for Human Food: “Very Small Business” $1,000,000 $1,065,291 Preventive Controls for Animal Food: “Very Small Business” $2,500,000 $2,663,227 Produce Safety Rule: “Qualified Exemption” $500,000 $532,645 Produce Safety Rule: “Not Covered Farm” $25,000 $26,632 Foreign Supplier Verification Programs: Human Food: “Very Small Importer” $1,000,000 $1,065,291 Foreign Supplier Verification Programs: Animal Food: “Very Small Importer” $2,500,000 $2,663,227 Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food: “Non-covered Business” $500,000 $532,645 Intentional Adulteration: “Very Small Business” $10,000,000 $10,652,906 Question: If my farm is registered with FDA, but based on the new definition of a “farm” I am not required to register it, what should I do? Straight Talk: If your operation was previously registered with FDA, but now no longer needs to be registered, you should cancel the registration. Explanation: Operations that meet the definition of a farm do not need to register with FDA. If your operation was registered, but now meets the definition of a “farm” under the new regulations, you should cancel your registration. You should go online to FDA’s facility registration portal and cancel your registration electronically (through https://www.access.fda.gov/). Alternatively, you can cancel your registration by paper (mail or fax). This form is available here: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/ReportsManualsForms/Forms/UCM072017.pdf. You will be asked to provide information such as registration number, facility name and address. This column was prepared by Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida, who are lawyers with Hogan Lovells US LLP in Washington, DC. The FSMA Files column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Senior Director of Global Marketing
Emily is the Senior Director Global Marketing at Almond Board of California (ABC), where she leads the strategy and implementation of the Board’s global marketing investment including both consumer and trade activities. She recently joined the Almond Board of California after 12 years in Brand Management at Kraft Foods working on the Oscar Mayer and Lunchables brands and California-based Foster Farms managing the company’s Prepared Foods business. Prior to her career in marketing, she worked in accounting and finance. She honed her analytic and general business skills in roles at one of the Big 5 accounting firms and global finance with Nike and InFocus Systems. Emily graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a BA in Accounting and the University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler School of Business with an MBA in Brand Management. She relocated to California’s Central Valley several years ago and resides in Turlock, CA along with her husband, son, and daughter. Emily enjoys spending time with her family and embracing all of the beautiful outdoor activities California has to offer.
"Jane" Stays Healthy with Tips from Life Squad
The North American female target audience for California Almonds, known as “Jane” by the Almond Board’s Marketing Department, is a 35-year-old woman who values healthy eating and staying in shape, but can find it challenging to address both when time is short. Fortunately, Jane is finding help from a crew of healthy-lifestyle-focused spokespeople known as the California Almonds Life Squad. Led by actress, author, host of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and busy mom Alison Sweeney, the Life Squad team includes Seamus Mullen, award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author; Keri Gans, registered dietitian and nutritionist; Ashley Borden, celebrity personal trainer and fitness expert; and Joy McCarthy, Canadian holistic nutritionist. At key times of the year — pre-holidays, the New Year and springtime — the Almond Board’s Life Squad has been reaching Jane in traditional and social media with fun, easy and actionable ways to eat better and get active, with almonds included as a key part of it all. “We knew Alison Sweeney would appeal perfectly to Jane, as she’s aspirational yet relatable, and she’s really busy but able to find easy ways to fit in nutritious foods and fitness,” says Molly Spence, regional director of North America, Almond Board of California. “For optimum media exposure, we’ve been fortunate to catch Alison at a great time in her career, as well as add a variety of additional expert spokespeople who add depth to the story and appeal to different types of reporters, all while keeping almonds prominent.” To date, the campaign has exceeded ABC’s expectations, accumulating more than 550 million impressions. Placements in numerous prominent Jane-targeted outlets have included stories in Good Housekeeping (online), Women’s Health (online), Huffington Post #NoFilter and a great segment on Fox and Friends, as well as prominent Canadian outlets such as Glow, Canadian Living and Hello! For more information about what the Life Squad has been recommending to Jane this spring, visit Almonds.com/LifeSquad. Its tips have also been issued regularly through ABC’s presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.