Almond Industry Wants Exemption from FSMA

California almond industry officials are asking the Food and Drug Administration to be one of the few produce items typically not consumed raw the government agency is proposing to exempt the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).Almond industry officials believe they should be exempt since the already operate under a federal marketing order that requires nearly all shelled almonds sold to first undergo an approved kill step.

As proposed, peanuts and all tree nuts would fall under the FSMA’s produce rule, said Julie Adams, vice president of global technology and regulatory affairs for the Modesto-based Almond Board of California. The FSMA also classifies huller-shellers as a food facility, which means they would have to comply with a complex set of regulations.

The industry considers huller-shellers part of a farming operation and therefore believed they should come under grower rules. Adams said huller-shellers really are just an extension of growers’ field operations since they remove orchard debris and clean up the crop before it moves to a handler, also considered a processing facility, but the FDA does not see it that way right now.

The state’s 6,500 almond growers already fall under voluntary commodity-specific good agricultural practices developed in 2004 with input from university, extension and other food safety experts.Since 2007, almond handlers have been required to use a process that provides at least a four-log reduction of salmonella bacteria. In other words, the process must decrease bacteria by a factor of 10,000. This can include roasting, blanching or pasteurization.

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