I RECENTLY ASKED several successful restaurant operators what they knew about the recently passed FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). I received only blank looks and acknowledgments that they need to learn more. In fact, anyone who handles, buys or sells food, and certainly anyone who prepares and serves food to consumers, needs to know a great deal about the FSMA.
The FSMA is the greatest expansion of food safety requirements and the FDA's powers over food safety issues in nearly 75 years. It was prompted in part by major foodborne outbreaks involving peanuts, produce, eggs and meat over the last decade.
The FSMA is divided into four titles:
Improving capacity to prevent food safety problems
Improving capacity to detect and respond to food safety problems
Improving the safety of imported food
Miscellaneous provisions. [Some provisions, but not all, directly affect you.]
Two areas of likely immediate application for you involve imported foods and locally grown produce. The FSMA extends responsibility for safe food up and down the supply chain. This means, for example, that:
A restaurant importing a food item will be held responsible for the safety of that item and must be certain that the source of the product is compliant with FSMA regulations regarding imported food.
A restaurant using locally grown produce will be held responsible for knowing what the food safety plan and procedures are for the local grower from whom they are purchasing the produce.
The restaurant purchasing and using locally grown produce will need to maintain a list of its suppliers and their locations. This information must be available to the public.
Also likely to affect the industry is the way the FSMA changes the FDA from a predominantly reactive agency to a proactive agency with “a legislative mandate to require comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the food supply.”
In practice, this new emphasis on prevention is likely to lead to a need in the foodservice industry for an increased presence of certified food protection managers; written, formal food safety management programs, inclusive of well -defined prerequisites or standard operating procedures recordkeeping and corrective action plans; and improved tracking of suppliers' compliance.
Contrary to common belief, the U.S. does not have a national or federal food code establishing food safety requirements and procedures for the foodservice industry. We only have the FDA Food Code, which is not a binding law or regulation, but is used as a standard to evaluate state and local food codes. The FDA Food Code is revised every four years with updates published every two years. The FSMA will inevitably affect future revisions, and those revisions will surely trickle down to restaurants and other foodservice providers.
As Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for the FDA, explained in a speech at the Global Food Safety Conference in London earlier this year, “the new law explicitly places primary responsibility for food safety prevention on food producers and processors. Think of it as supply chain management written into law.”
Don't underestimate the significance of that statement. You will increasingly be viewed as a link in the supply chain and will be held more accountable for what happens in the supply chain upstream. The health of the foodservice industry and the public will be best served by adopting a proactive approach to food safety that meets or exceeds that of the FDA.
For more information about the FSMA, go to www.fda.gov/fsma.
Steven Sklare is a sales executive for food safety services at SGS, based in Fairfield, NJ. He has been working in the food industry for more than 20 years performing supply chain risk management, food safety audits and training, food safety management plan design and pest control services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently passed an updated food safety act. Steven Sklare, a new columnist for RH, helps explain what you need to know.