Welcome to the Regulatory Issues section. Here you find relevant information overviews on some standards, mostly mined from the United States Department of Agriculture. It is important that in your watermelon business you have an understanding of Country of Origin Labeling practices, FDA Bioterrorism Rules, Canadian Labeling practices, and the USDA Grades & Standards guidelines.
Good Agricultural Practices, also known as GAP, are important for your business as well. The goal of the GAPs project is to reduce microbial risks in fruits and vegetables by developing a comprehensive extension and education program for growers and packers. The GAPs project has collaborators in 16 states throughout the nation and has created many educational materials to help promote the use of good agricultural practices on the farm. This project is funded by CSREES-USDA and US-FDA and the program is based at Cornell University. Please feel free to explore the GAPs website at http://www.gaps.cornell.edu/.
Please visit the Other Resources page in the Industry section for important links to USDA, Standard Practices & Protocol and other important produce organizations.
Country of Origin Labeling
On May 13, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, more commonly known as the 2002 Farm Bill. One of its many initiatives requires country of origin labeling for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities and peanuts. On January 27, 2004, President Bush signed Public Law 108-199 which delays the implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until September 30, 2006. On November 10, 2005, President Bush signed Public Law 109-97, which delays the implementation for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised and shellfish until September 30, 2008. As described in the legislation, program implementation is the responsibility of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.
You can visit the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Website to learn more about Country of Origin Labeling.
Resources available there include:
- Training Materials: Workbooks, compliance guides, training exercises
- Selected Customs and Border Protection Rulings
- Talking Points on Interim Final Rule
- Questions & Answers
- Examples of Records that may be Useful for COOL Verification
JANUARY 2009 UPDATE: COOL FINAL RULE POSTINGPlease click here to be taken to the USDA AMS Final Rule website. Effective date March 16, 2009.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued the long-awaited interim final rule for mandatory country of origin labeling that will become effective on September 30. The rule will be formally published in the August 1 Federal Register but a PDF of the regulation can be viewed now. Note: In its current format at the link above, the interim final rule is 233 pages.
The interim final rule contains definitions, the requirements for consumer notification and product marking, and the recordkeeping responsibilities of both retailers and suppliers for covered commodities. Foodservice establishments are specifically exempted as are covered commodities that are ingredients in a processed food item.
While waiting for the interim final rule to be published, PMA had received many questions from its members about COOL and what would be acceptable (as per the provisions laid out in the 2008 Farm Bill). The interim final rule provides clarification for those questions; here's a brief look some of at what's covered in the IFR:
- Markings: The country of origin declaration may be provided to consumers by means of a label, placard, sign, stamp, band, twist tie, pin tag, or other clear and visible sign on the covered commodity or on the package, display, holding unit, or bin containing the commodity at the final point of sale to consumers. The declaration of the country of origin of a product may be in the form of a statement such as "Product of USA," "Produce of the USA", or "Grown in Mexico;" may only contain the name of the country such as "USA" or "Mexico;" or may be in the form of a check box provided it is in conformance with other Federal labeling laws.
- Containers: A bulk container (e.g., display case, shipper, bin, carton, and barrel), used at the retail level to present product to consumers, may contain a covered commodity from more than one country of origin provided all possible origins are listed.
- Processed food items: "A retail item derived from a covered commodity that has undergone specific processing resulting in a change in the character of the covered commodity, or that has been combined with at least one other covered commodity or other substantive food component, except that the addition of a component (such as water, salt, or sugar) that enhances or represents a further step in the preparation of the product for consumption, would not in itself result in a processed food item." Examples of excluded items include a salad mix that contains lettuce and a dressing packet; a salad mix that contains lettuce and carrots; a fruit cup that contains melons, bananas, and strawberries; a bag of mixed vegetables that contains peas and carrots; and roasted peanuts.
- Recordkeeping: All records must be legible and may be maintained in either electronic or hard copy formats. Due to the variation in inventory and accounting documentary systems, various forms of documentation and records will be acceptable. Upon request by USDA representatives, suppliers and retailers shall make available to USDA representatives, records maintained in the normal course of business that verify an origin claim. Such records shall be provided within 5 business days of the request and may be maintained in any location.
- Effective date/industry outreach: The requirements of this rule do not apply to covered commodities produced or packaged before September 30, 2008. In addition, during the six month period following the effective date of the regulation, AMS will conduct an industry education and outreach program concerning the provisions and requirements of this rule. AMS has determined that this allocation of enforcement resources will ensure that the rule is effectively and rationally implemented.
The Bioterrorism Act of 2002
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, reinforced the need to enhance the security of the United States. Congress responded by passing the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (the Bioterrorism Act), which President Bush signed into law June 12, 2002.
The Bioterrorism Act is divided into five titles:
Title I -- National Preparedness for Bioterrorism and Other Public Health Emergencies
Title II -- Enhancing Controls on Dangerous Biological Agents and Toxins
Title III -- Protecting Safety and Security of Food and Drug Supply
Title IV -- Drinking Water Security and Safety
Title V -- Additional Provisions
Highlights: Food Safety and Security and Protection of Adulteration
Sec. 301. Food Safety and Security Strategy
- Requires the President's Council on Food Safety, in consultation with the Secretaries of Transportation and Treasury, other relevant Federal agencies, food industry, consumer and producer groups, scientific organizations, and the States, to develop a crisis communications and education strategy regarding bioterrorist threats to the food supply. The strategy shall address threat assessments; technologies and procedures for securing food processing and manufacturing facilities and modes of transportation; response and notification procedures; and risk communications to the public.
Sec. 302. Protection Against Adulteration of Food
- Amends Section 801 to direct the Secretary to give high priority to increasing the number of inspections of food offered for import with the greatest priority given to inspections to detect intentional adulteration.
- Directs the Secretary to give high priority to making improvements to the FDA information management systems for imported foods to improve our ability to allocate resources, detect intentional adulteration, and facilitate the importation of food that is in compliance with the Act.
- Directs the Secretary to improve linkages with other Federal, State and tribal food safety agencies;
- Requires the Secretary to provide for research on development of tests and sampling methodologies to rapidly detect the adulteration of food, with the greatest priority given to detect intentional adulteration, and whose results offer significant improvements over available technology in terms of accuracy, timing, or costs
- Directs the Secretary to give priority to research on the development of tests suitable for inspections of food at ports of entry.
- Directs the Secretary to coordinate as appropriate on the research with CDC, NIH, EPA, and USDA.
- Requires the Secretary to submit an annual report to Congress describing progress made in research.
- Requires the Secretary, through the FDA Commissioner, within 6 months of enactment, to ensure that the threat assessment being conducted on the threat of intentional adulteration of the food supply is completed and that a report describing the findings is submitted to Congress.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) safeguards Canada’s food supply. The CFIA works from the farm gate to the consumer’s plate to protect public health. In carrying out its mandate, and in support of Government of Canada priorities, the CFIA strives to:
- Protect Canadians from preventable health risks
- Protect consumers through a fair and effective food, animal and plant regulatory regime that supports competitive domestic and international markets
- Sustain the plant and animal resource base
- Contribute to the security of Canada’s food supply and agriculture base, and
- Provide sound agency management
Any watermelon product that moves from the United States across the border to Canada is subject to labeling restrictions and guidelines that are different than those watermelons that stay domestic.
Fresh Produce Grading and Quality Certification
The Fresh Products Branch of USDA Agriculture Marketing Services (AMS) develops U.S. grade standards and provides grading, inspection and certification services (including for good agricultural practices and good handling practices) at shipping and destination locations throughout the country. These services facilitate the marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables, including watermelon.
Please take the time to review the standards and grades for watermelon.