Consumer confidence is a key driver of today’s global food system, and the expectations for food safety are high. It’s expected that everyone involved in producing, processing, transporting and selling food is doing everything they reasonably can to prevent problems and make food safe – and governments around the world are working to meet consumer expectations for food safety. In the United States, that led to the passage of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – and to global implications for those in the food industry.
FSMA aims to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply by requiring domestic and foreign processors (exporting product to the U.S.) to proactively manage food safety and food defense hazards associated with the manufacture and transport of FDA-regulated food products. Comprised of 41 sections, FSMA also grants the FDA the power to recall contaminated foods, increase inspections, demand accountability from food companies and oversee certain aspects of farming and packaging of fresh produce.
Prevention is the foundation of FSMA, recognizing it is the shared responsibility of all participants in the food system – while also recognizing preventive controls will vary by type of facility, from farms that grow produce to facilities that manufacture food.
Food importers and private sector supply chain management play an important role in preventing contaminated food from entering the food chain. Managing imports is one of the FDA’s biggest challenges, and giving FDA new tools to manage imports was a driving force behind the enactment of FSMA. So FSMA requires every food importer to establish a risk-based Foreign Supplier Verification Program to provide documented assurances that the food they are importing has been produced and processed in a way that meets U.S. food safety standards.
For food producers who already have strong food safety programs and controls in place, the biggest change may be the need to audit their processes, highlight areas for improvement, and confirm they are operating at best practice levels.
Manufacturers who source foods or ingredients from overseas regions will be required to perform risk-based activities to verify that the finished goods they’re importing are safe, non-adulterated, appropriately labeled and manufactured according to FSMA requirements, on a regular basis.
While food and beverage manufacturers are seeing the largest impact from FSMA, retailers and foodservice companies will also feel the effects of FSMA. Those businesses operating private-label manufacturing facilities will need to meet the same requirements as their food and beverage counterparts. Those operating distribution centers or directly importing finished goods into the U.S. will also need to comply with portions of FSMA and will likely see some changes in documentation and process changes to comply with the new rules. With the final rules still coming out, retailers and foodservice companies need to stay close to the rules and understand the impact on their businesses as well as the additional pressures on their suppliers.
Seven proposed rules underwent extended periods of industry comment, review and revisions. Two of the originally proposed rules were finalized in September 2015, and three more were finalized in November 2015. The remaining two proposed rules are in a period of FDA revision, and are expected to publish in 2016.
The rules generally go into effect 60 days following their publication as in the Federal Register. Compliance for most affected businesses begins one year after their publication, with additional time for small and very small businesses to comply. FDA enforcement will mirror compliance.
For more information on the Final and Proposed Rules, as well as how Ecolab’s programs and expertise can help, visit http://ecolab.com/foodsafety.
Don’t miss our Special Session at the Global Food Safety Conference in Berlin (8 a.m. on 2 March) – “Maintaining Consistent Food Safety Standards Globally – Manufacturing and Retail Strategies for Success,” facilitated by Ecolab and featuring food safety experts Craig Wilson of Costco and Elena V. Garcia of Mondelēz.
And visit booth F3-4 at the Global Food Safety Conference in Berlin and www.ecolab.com/foodsafety to learn more about our cutting-edge innovation and food safety expertise.