How to Prepare for the Food Safety Modernization Act

How to Prepare for the Food Safety Modernization Act

When President Obama signed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in January 2011, it marked the first time in more than 70 years that the U.S. government introduced any significant legislative change to the food industry. The motive was clear: Educate and instruct public and private sectors on how to better protect the food supply chain, then react and respond when product recalls occur.

The bill covers three primary aspects of food safety:

Prevention. The premise behind the Food Safety Modernization Act is to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks and other anomalies before they happen. Accordingly, the legislation mandates all companies involved in food production, distribution, handling, and selling to evaluate potential hazards in their operations, implement measures to prevent contamination, and have corrective actions in place in the event of an outbreak.

Inspection and Compliance. FSMA holds the FDA accountable for ensuring there is proper infrastructure and governance in place to inspect food products in the supply chain. The FDA is expected to meet this directive by applying its inspection resources in a risk-based manner.

Imports. FSMA gives the FDA more oversight over food imports to the United States. The legislation requires importers to verify suppliers as safe; authorizes the FDA to refuse imported food if the foreign facility or country is non-compliant with code; allows the FDA to require certification, based on risk criteria, that food imports are compliant with safety requirements; and provides incentive for importers to take further safety measures to expedite the FDA reviews.

3 Tips To Prepare for FSMA

Even before the final rulemaking is published and enforced, food shippers should take a proactive approach to make sure supply chains are compliant. Here are three steps to consider.

  • Talk with your supply chain partners. One of the best ways to collect information is to ask questions of carriers, third-party logistics providers, and suppliers. Ask your suppliers: Where did you get product? What did you do with it in your facility? Where did you send it? They should be able to provide proof of forward and backward lot traceability. Food regulations change state to state, so it is important to also consider what your carriers have to say. They have a valuable perspective and insight.
  • Listen to your customers. If there is a pattern of complaints, take heed. Make sure you identify where the problem is occurring within the production and distribution cycle, as well as the context of the problem. Is it packaging integrity? Temperature or time sensitivity? The more details you glean from your customers, the easier it is to direct corrective action.
  • Use technology. What kind of functionality does your transportation management or warehouse management system have? Is it enough? A wealth of solutions are available—from lot and bar-code tracking to RFID—that can facilitate information sharing among multiple supply chain partners. Find them, and use them.

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