I had a question come into my office the other day asking about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and how it will affect community gardens, demonstration gardens and farmers in general who donate produce to local food pantries.
I checked in with Marlin Bates, University of Missouri Regional Horticulture Specialist in the Kansas City area. Here is his response.
“Basically, what should we be concerned with in regards to the FSMA?”
Great question. I’ll attempt to answer it in two parts:
As for what you (or anyone like you who grows fresh fruits/vegetables strictly for donation) need to be concerned about as it relates to FSMA:
My best interpretation is that the proposed rule would not apply (not to be confused with being exempt from the rule) to your operation because your farm on average (in the previous 3 years) sold less than $25,000 worth of food products.
As for your other concerns about liability:
Thank you for astutely pointing out the potentially exploitable hole in the armor of the organization. There are steps that you (and other groups that grow food for donation) could take to reduce the likelihood of microbial contamination of the food you produce/donate. It’s probably not a bad idea to have some sort of plan in place to ensure these contamination reduction measures are consistently executed. However, even this doesn’t eliminate liability (but it does reduce the likelihood of contamination and provide evidence of due diligence in the event of prosecution/suit).
Next learn as much as you can about developing a food safety plan.