The FDA has announced a new protocol for the development and registration of antimicrobial treatments for pre-harvest agricultural water, developed through a collaboration with the EPA.

Agricultural water can be a major conduit of pathogens that can contaminate produce. FDA recognizes that effective treatments could be a valuable tool in helping to prevent foodborne illness associated with the consumption of produce. Currently, there are no registered antimicrobial treatment products authorized to control microorganisms of public health significance for use on agricultural fields or for treatment of irrigation water systems or ponds.

The EPA’s approval of this testing protocol—which is intended to help companies develop data on the effectiveness of their products in inactivating pathogens, such as E. coli or salmonella, in pre-harvest agricultural water—means that companies may use the data developed with the protocol to support registration of new treatment products or amendments to current products’ labels.

The FDA says this action is consistent with its commitment to a New Era of Smarter Food Safety, a blueprint centered around four core elements: 1) tech-enabled traceability; 2) smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response; 3) new business models and retail modernization; and 4) food safety culture. The protocol also fulfills one of the action items in the 2020 Leafy Green STEC Action Plan, which is to support the EPA approval of an FDA-developed protocol that chemical companies may use in obtaining registration of antimicrobial products for use in treating irrigation water.