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What you need to know about FSMA: Part 1

If you are in the food industry and have had your eyes and ears open, then most likely you have heard the word FSMA being thrown around… a lot. However, some people might find themselves unfamiliar with the term or have limited knowledge of it, so in this entry, we are going to cover some general information regarding FSMA and in upcoming blogs, we will go into further detail about each proposed rule issued by the FDA that supports this legislation.

The people, pathogens, and food of today are not those of the past. Our population is living longer and with problems that make them more susceptible to foodborne illness complications. Pathogens are evolving and becoming more adaptable and harder to kill. Our food is traveling more than it ever has. For example, the FDA states that 15% of the food we eat is imported. A total 75% of our seafood, 20% of our vegetables, and 50% of our fruit is imported. However, one thing has not changed and that is the threat that foodborne illness presents to the food industry and its consumers.

In the last decade, there have been major foodborne illness outbreaks regarding various foods including spinach, sprouts, peanut butter and eggs. The CDC reports that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses. In the best interest of the food industry and knowing that food is becoming a global commodity, FDA wanted to bring their food regulations to everyone. All of this has prompted the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, a food safety legislation for today’s food industry and for the future.

Signed by President Obama on January 4th, 2011, this act really focuses on updating current food safety practices in facilities and is moving towards prevention rather than reaction. The Food Safety Modernization Act has three major Titles, including improving capacity to prevent food safety problems, improving capacity to detect and respond to food safety problems and improving the safety of imported food.

Title I details expectations for records, registration of facilities, hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls, standards, food allergy and anaphylaxis management and protection against intentional adulteration, among many other topics. This section really focuses on the prevention aspect of food safety. Title II outlines many areas, including but not limited to, enhancing tracking and tracing of food and recordkeeping, surveillance and mandatory recall authority. Title II centers around inspections, compliance and record access for the FDA. Title III handles the safety of imported food. For example, the FSVP (foreign supplier verification program), inspection of foreign food facilities, and accreditation of third-party auditors.

The legislation aims to combine prevention, increased inspections, response, and import safety to create a strong and compliant food safety program within each facility. In short and somewhat Cliff Notes fashion, a facility must show the FDA during inspections how they are preventing hazards from occurring at their facility, how they have a written plan established in case a hazard does occur, and how they have verification that their supplier is safe (if applicable) to be compliant. All in all, we just need to make food safe.

FSMA requirements may seem like a daunting task. To help a facility remain or become compliant the FDA is required under FSMA to issue rules, guidance documents, reports, and many other resources. This will take time, however there are deadlines set in place so all of this can take effect sooner rather than later.

One thing to note is regarding HACCP. HACCP is still a regulation that is in place with the FDA and that is not going away. For those facilities that have to meet HACCP regulations now they will still have to meet that criteria, however FSMA is aimed at supporting those actions.

Now that the reader has a better understanding of what FSMA is, in our next blog article, we will discuss in depth the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption proposed rule. So stay tuned… we will be back shortly!

Author: Erica Anderson-Decina, Training & Development Assistant

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