California’s almond growers have been diligent in producing a high quality, safe food product for many years. The Almond Board of California (ABC) worked with USDA and leading food-safety experts to develop a food quality and safety plan designed to provide consumers with the safest possible almonds from California.

This program, which is constantly updated, addresses the entire supply chain, recommending practices that encompass good agricultural practices (GAPs) in orchards, good manufacturing practices (GMPs) in processing plants, and pasteurization which is the final step in the food safety program before California almonds are shipped to customers.

Here is a look at how the ABC food-safety program is likely to mesh with the two proposed food safety rules issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The two rules are:

1. Standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce for human consumption (produce safety rule)

2. Current good manufacturing practice and hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls for human food (GMPs and preventive controls)

Almonds are “produce”

The produce safety rule may directly impact almond growers because almonds and other nuts are considered under the “produce” umbrella by FDA. The produce safety rule will focus on measures to reduce or prevent the potential for microbiological contamination during growing, harvesting, packing, or holding of the food.

 

Want access to the very latest in agriculture news each day? Sign up for the Western Farm Press Daily e-mail newsletter.

 

Key components to the proposed rule include:

  • Qualification and training requirements for workers who handle product or food contact surfaces;
  • Agriculture water sanitary quality requirements and verification records;
  • Biological soil amendment requirements, including establishment of treatment requirements for soil amendments of animal origin, establishment of treatment requirements, and minimum application intervals for untreated and treated biological soil amendments;
  • Establishment of the waiting period between animal grazing and harvest;  
  • Establishment of requirements related to equipment and tools that contact product, including equipment used in harvest, transport, storage, and buildings; and
  • Establishment of requirements related to pest control, hand-washing and toilet facilities, sewage, trash, plumbing, and animal excreta.

Records to document and demonstrate implementation of the key components as outlined above are also required under the proposed rule.

The GMPs and preventive controls proposed rule will impact almond handlers. This rule will update the FDA current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) regulations involving processing, packing, and holding of food for human consumption.

The cGMP updates focus primarily on clarifying requirements to protect against contamination and cross contamination, as well as allergens. In addition, focus will be placed on prevention of contamination of food packaging materials.

The rule also establishes a requirement to develop a written food safety plan. The proposed food safety plan must include:

  • Identification of hazards likely to occur in the food, including biological, chemical, physical and radiological hazards;
  • Preventive controls, monitoring practices, and corrective actions for identified hazards;
  • Verification procedures for identified preventive controls; and