Equifax and the SEC are today’s current cyber-disturbance.  But what about our food supply.  Congress, in 2010, enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The law drastically updates how our food is regulated. It creates guidelines for food manufacturers and processors to follow in the processing, producing and handling of food, from harvesting to processing, warehousing and distribution. The federal government however, is still trying to figure out how to enforce the FSMA. The most recent rules focus on preventing the intentional adulteration of food in the supply chain.

The proposed rules shifts the focus from responding to a contamination after it occurs to industry prevent. The rules also make industry and government partners in prevention, with industry accountable for its responsibility in producing safe human and animal food.

To comply with the rule, industry must comply with a whole new set of rules in producing, handling, packaging, importing and distributing food.   In essence companies must have written policies in place to address the monitoring, verification, corrective actions and recalls, not only in the US, but also abroad – that are revisited every two years.

For example, each food production facility will be required to inform the FDA of its food safety prevention plans. This includes prevention controls such as verification, monitoring, corrective action and recordkeeping methodologies.

Compliance comes with a cost, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year an estimated 48 million Americans become sick due to a foodborne illness.

  • 128,000 end up in hospitals; &,
  • 3,000 die from food related diseases.

The new law is meant to knowing where we are vulnerable and having plans in place to prevent issues from becoming problems.

Economically, it will help companies in the long term. In 2008, growers and distributors lost an estimated $100 million after salmonella-tainted jalapeno peppers and tomatoes were recalled. Also in 2008, the Peanut Corporation of America filed for bankruptcy after a salmonella outbreak was linked to the peanuts products at their facility.

In complying with the new law, companies must understand where they are vulnerable. Small businesses and farms may not be subject to as extensive requirements as large food manufacturers and processors are. But every food facility must be aware of the law and have some level of compliance. The exception is for food facilities that only sell within their state or within 275 miles of their facility and have less than $500,000 in annual sales. However, state and local food safety laws still apply.

The FDA already relies on the food safety and inspection programs of each state. This includes foodborne outbreaks, surveillance and inspection activities and trace back efforts.  As a result, the FSMA requires the FDA to reach out state and local government to build their food safety and food defense capabilities.

When our food supply is under attack or food Is being recalled, it is important have a plan in place from farm-to-fork.  This includes communicating with customers and suppliers, directly and through the media, monitoring the industry and creating early warning systems while communicating with public officials.

*Sources: Food Logistics, Armstrong & Teasdale, NCSL