Saturday, September 8, 2012

Food Safety Modernization Act-USA? Additional burden for Importers?

Food Borne Illness in USA

From the data provided by FDA-USA (Food and Drug Administration) of United States of America, about 48 million i.e 1 out of 6 Americans are falling sick and susceptible to food borne illness every year. All data are given for an year.

  • Total number of food borne illness : 48 million
  • Hospitlized                                    : 128, 000
  • Death                                            : 3,000
So food borne illness has to be considered as one of serious problems in the country. Food safety and Hygiene has to reviewed and improved to reduce the number of food borne illness.

A new law

To find a solution for food safety related diseases, USA Government under the presidency of Mr.Obama came with a new law by the year 2011 called Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA).
US-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for implementation of this new act in all the food companies in USA. "Foodborne illness is largely preventable if everyone in today’s global food chain could be held responsible and accountable at each step for controlling hazards that can cause illness. Under the new law, FDA will now have new prevention-focused tools and a clear regulatory framework to help make substantial improvements in our approach to food safety. " says the FDA on the need for FSMA.

Brief look on FSMA

Having a look at the key changes made by the government on their food safety act to make their people safe from food borne illness can give a picture of FSMA. In brief FSMA gave more power to FDA authorities to regulate food facilities.

The key elements are listed below,

  • Preventive Controls - FBA has a legislative mandate to require comprehensive, preventive-based controls across the food supply. The FSMA Act requires all the food industry owners, opertors, or agents to formulate and implement various procedures to deal with problems that may arise during the course of business. Procedures including written hazard analysis, implementation of preventive controls and monitoring them, a planned course of corrective actions are some of the notable ones in the list. These provisions apply all facilities such as manufactuirng, processing, packaging and export sites. But some provisions allow flexibility for small businesses. And one more category is additional called a 'qualified facility'- can be attained by getting qualified for the section of 'very small business' and also by satisfying two conditions- food sold directly to the users in the last 3 years is higher than food sold to purchasers and annual monetary value of food sold is less $500,000.
  • Inspection and Compliance - Inspection is an important means of holding industry accountable for its responsibility to produce safe foods and thus the law specifies how often FDA should inspect food producers. FDA is committed to applying its inspection resources in a risk-based manner and adopting innovative inspection approaches.
  • Imported Food Safety - FDA has new tools to ensure that those imported foods meet US standards and are safe for our consumers. Foreign Supplier verification Program under the section 301, food importers in USA should verify that their suppliers have adequate preventive controls in place to ensure the same level of protection as those required for domestic food facilities. To make sure that the importers get safe food from overseas they may be required to: monitor records for shipments; conduct lot-by-lot compliance certification or annual on-site inspections; check hazard analysis and risk based preventive control plans of foreign suppliers; and periodically test and sample food shipments.
  • Response - FDA have mandatory recall authority for all food products. Before issuing a mandatory recall, “the Secretary shall provide the responsible party with an opportunity to cease distribution and recall such article.” However, if the responsible party does not voluntarily comply, the Agency may, by order, require the party to immediately cease distribution of the article and may notify all persons involved in the manufacturing, distribution, importing, packing, etc., and require these persons to cease distribution of the article. 
  • Enhanced Partnerships - The legislation recognises the importance of strengthening existing collaboration among all food safety agencies—U.S. federal, state, local, territorial, tribal and foreign--to achieve our public health goals. 
With a video

After 1 year

There are many ongoing debates about this act affecting the exports of food from various countries to USA. On one side it is beneficial considering the health of the consumers to make this kind of strong law but this act has several drawbacks. Some of them includes obligatory hazard analysis written control plan for all kinds of food products even if they are categorised in potentially harmful food like noodles; additional fee paid by the companies for the re-audits; suspension on registration and long process of registration; authority to FDA to guide new ingredient based on the nutritional standards which can change the originality of the product. FDA holds an huge power over all the food companies in USA and also on the suppliers in all around the world. 

An example of how this act affects export from Egypt

This video is quite interesting

Whatever the drawbacks are, FDA is trying is make the act come in to act by all means. "51% of US people have trust in FSMA", says Mr.Michael R.Taylor, Deputy Commissioner of Foods, FDA.What is your opinion about this act after a year? 

To know more about FSMA download the articles below:

  1. Review of FSMA
  2. FSMA-What do you need to know now
  3. FSMA for Importers


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