FDA announces draft guidance for sprout operations

The Food and Drug Administration has published draft guidance to help sprout operations meet safety standards for sprouts.

The guidance is available for public comment for six months beginning Jan. 19, according to a news release.

Sprout operations have new requirements under the produce safety rule required by the Food Safety Modernization Act. Between 1996 and July 2016, the FDA said there were 46 reported outbreaks associated with sprouts in the U.S., accounting for 2,474 illnesses, 187 hospitalizations, and three deaths.

The produce safety rule requires suppliers of sprouts take measures to prevent the introduction of dangerous microbes into seeds or beans used for sprouting, test spent sprout irrigation water for the presence of certain pathogens, according to the release. Other requirements include testing the growing, harvesting, packing and holding environment for the presence of the listeria species or Listeria monocytogenes, and take corrective actions when needed.

The release said the largest covered sprout operations must comply with the produce safety rule by Jan. 26, while small and very small sprout operations have compliance dates of Jan. 26, 2018 and Jan. 28, 2019, respectively.