FDA: First two FSMA rules finalized; aim to protect consumers

familywithfoodAccording to the FDA, the first two regulations of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have been finalized and aim to help make food safer for consumers. While the remaining five additional rules have yet to be finalized, the FDA says they will be released before the end of the year.

So, what do these two new regulations mean for you? A recent article explains:

 

 

  1. Food companies will apply greater controls to help prevent hazards.

“Rather than just react to outbreaks, we are requiring food facilities to take measures to prevent them from the get-go,” Jenny Scott, M.S., a senior advisor in FDA’s Office of Food Safety, said in the article. Food facilities will need to think upfront about what could be harmful to consumers, and then put controls in place to minimize or prevent those hazards.

For example, Scott said that facilities will be required to take steps to kill bacteria that cause foodborne illness or to prevent them from growing in food. If allergens are a hazard, the facility could pay particular attention to how equipment is cleaned when it is used for more than one product, so that allergens are not transferred from one food to another. Also, facilities should ensure that the product label identifies the presence of food allergens as unidentified food allergens are a major cause of food recalls by industry.

  1. You and your pet get protections from tainted animal food

With the Preventive Controls for Animal Food rule, “the same up-front thinking now required of human food manufacturing will also apply to manufacturers of animal food, including pet food,” Dan McChesney, Ph.D., director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in the article.

With a new prevention-oriented system in place, the FDA expects reductions in the risk of serious illness and death to animals when hazards, such as harmful levels of substances in a product, are controlled, McChesney said. If pet food manufacturers have methods in place to kill harmful bacteria, it will be much safer for both the pet and for anyone handling the food, he added. 

  1. Eating healthfully and eating safely will go hand-in-hand. 

The final Produce Safety rule, which will be issued this fall, will create safeguards to help prevent illnesses in ways that are appropriate for farms.

“Farms, unlike factories, are open environments,” Samir Assar, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Division of Produce Safety, explained in the article. “There are elements we understand that farms can’t necessarily control.” However, there are actions that can, and must, be taken to minimize the likelihood of contamination in ways that are practical and feasible for growers.

Farming conditions and methods for growing the same crop can differ widely from state to state and coast to coast, so the new regulations will focus on major conduits of contamination that are common to all or most farming environments, said Assar.

For example, standards have been proposed for agricultural water, farm worker hygiene or cleanliness, compost and sanitation conditions affecting buildings, equipment, and tools. These standards will apply to both domestic and imported produce. The FDA anticipates that the produce rule as proposed would prevent hundreds of thousands of illnesses caused by produce each year.

  1. There will be greater oversight of foods imported from other countries.

The new rules specifically affecting imports—Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) and Third Party Certification—are scheduled to become final the fall of 2015, enhancing our oversight of imported foods. Overall, 15% of the nation’s food supply is imported from other countries, including 80% of our seafood, nearly 50% of our fresh fruit, and 20% of our fresh vegetables.

“The FSVP rule, when finalized, will require importers to assume greater responsibility to verify that the foods they import into the United States meet the same safety standards required of domestic producers,” Brian Pendleton, J.D., senior policy advisor, said in the article.

  1. Consumers will be more confident that their food is safe.

“Up until now, everything has been reactive,” Darin Detwiler, senior policy coordinator for the advocacy group STOP Foodborne Illness, said in the article. ”This is the most sweeping food safety legislation passed within the last 70 years.”

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