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Wisconsin farmers prepare for food safety law changes

January 21, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin agriculture officials are getting ready for changes to federal food safety laws that will affect vegetable and fruit growers.

The new rules will take effect later this month, Wisconsin Public Radio reported . They’re part of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which was designed to prevent foodborne illnesses. The deadly 2006 E. coli outbreak was linked to fresh spinach.

The changes will give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration increased authority over regulating how foods are grown, harvested and processed. The agency will also be allowed to recall produce. The rules will also restrict when and how raw manure can be used.

“It is a big change. One of the big parts is that it puts foreign suppliers on the same playing field as local growers,” said Shawn Bartholomew, produce program and policy supervisor at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The department is working to inform farmers about the changes, which department officials said are the biggest in 70 years.

The rules will also require water used to rinse fruits and vegetables to be tested for pathogens.

“Water rules don’t take effect in 2020. So farmers have time to prepare,” said Bartholomew.

Enforcement won’t begin in earnest until next year, state officials said. Compliance will roll out in stages. Farms with annual produce sales of more than $500,000 will have to comply the first year, followed by farms with at least $250,000 in sales the following year. Small farms with sales of more than $25,000 won’t have to comply until 2021.

Wisconsin had 68 foodborne outbreaks from 2015-16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio, http://www.wpr.org

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