With 2016 in the books, we now look ahead to 2017 and all the potential it holds. With a new presidential administration and FSMA roll-out and compliance dates on the docket, 2017 could be a big year for the food safety industry. Here’s a look at 10 key points the Acheson Group predicts will play a part in 2017.
- Trump’s new administration
What will the new administration do with the FDA budget and how will that impact its FSMA enforcement resources? What, if any, changes are made to the overall direction and function required of FDA — particularly as there is now a food-industry representative as the U.S. Labor Secretary? While we don’t expect any dramatic or sudden changes, over time you can expect a change in enforcement strategy, the article states.
- FDA inspections
We can expect to see FDA inspectors facing a continued learning curve as they begin inspections of FDA-regulated facilities based on new FSMA regulations. That said, we also expect the number of large facility inspections to increase over the course of the year. So, while all food facilities should be prepared for an unannounced FDA inspection, large companies should be particularly prepared with their food safety plans in place and know that FDA could stop by at any time.
- Focus on environmental controls and increased recalls
With the FDA inspecting facilities based on new FSMA regulations, conducting environmental sampling/swabbing, and the use of PulseNet, they are likely to discover more issues that will bring food safety into question. As these issues are uncovered, the FDA may request specific time frames for manufacture food to be recalled out of an abundance of caution. With the pressure of FSMA compliance, it is also likely that voluntary recalls will increase, with companies pushing hard to be better educated on risks within their facilities. The article explains a key message for 2017 is to make sure you have done the best you can with your environmental control program, especially if you make ready-to-eat foods.
- Second round of compliance
Small companies and pet food manufacturers will have to be FSMA compliant this year. These two sectors will be ramping up their food safety plans just as the large companies did in 2016.
- Dedicated PCQI positions
As companies develop and implement their food safety plans, they are becoming very aware of the numerous duties and responsibilities to which the Preventive Controls Qualified Individual is held. With these added responsibilities potentially requiring full-time or contract personnel, companies will need to consider making additional hires or reassessing existing roles.
- More pressure on suppliers
Food manufacturers and processors depend on suppliers to provide safe ingredients both to ensure the end safety of their products and to fulfill FSMA rules. Thus, suppliers will be scrutinized for complete, thorough, and accurate information, followed by increased verification by the food companies.
- A continued request for clarification
As more food industries become compliant with FSMA, the number of questions submitted to the FSMA Technical Assistance Network (TAN) will continue. Industry trade groups will continue to solicit information and clarification from the FDA on specific interpretations of FSMA and how it applies to their niche, and will look for continued guidance updates.
- GMO foods
Beyond FSMA, the article states we can expect to see a continued focus on the regulation/labeling of GMO foods. Although the USDA has two years to develop a labeling program, consumers are unlikely to let the matter drop.
- Social media
As more people become actively engaged in social media, the spread of information, and misinformation, will only increase in volume and speed. Food companies will need to be prepared to react properly and efficiently and continue to develop ways to figure out what social media is saying about their brand before it becomes a crisis.
- Changing world views
As 2016 came to an end and the Trump Administration began putting forward its plans, a push and pull of globalization vs. economic nationalism began to show its face. While this is much bigger than our food industry, the industry is still likely to be impacted in some way — or many.
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