On July 30, FDA announced a new protocol for the development and registration of antimicrobial treatments for pre-harvest agricultural water, such as the water used in farm irrigation systems. The protocol was developed through a collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Companies can now use data developed under this protocol to support EPA registration of products that can treat agricultural water against foodborne bacteria, which could provide farmers with a useful tool to help protect the safety of produce intended for consumers, such as romaine lettuce and other leafy greens.
EPA’s approval of this protocol allows for companies to develop data on the effectiveness of their products in inactivating foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli or Salmonella, in preharvest agricultural water. Companies may use the data developed to support registration of new treatment products, or amendments to current products’ labels, for use against microbial contamination in pre-harvest agricultural water.
Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of romaine lettuce and other leafy greens have highlighted the need for a viable option for treating agricultural water against foodborne pathogens. While farmers are not required to treat their agricultural water, these treatments could be a valuable tool to help farmers protect the safety of their produce. There currently are no registered antimicrobial treatment products that are authorized for use on agricultural fields, or for treatment of irrigation water systems or ponds. This protocol is an important step toward addressing this lack of available treatments for preharvest agricultural water.
FDA intends to release a proposed rule in late 2020 to revise certain agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule and to address practical implementation challenges while protecting public health.