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Upping the Game on Food Safety

Center for the Global Food Value Chain Blog

As a microbiologist within the food safety business, I’m familiar with food pathogens and their risk. However, my instinctive reaction to hearing about a food recall is, “not again!”

The infamous 2009 peanut butter recall claimed 8 lives and sickened about 19,000 people. Investigations revealed a dangerously flawed food safety and inspection program at both the peanut butter plant and in the government. They both paid a steep economic price and brought to the forefront three pivotal questions:

  1. What is the real price of a recall?
  2. Who should pay this price?
  3. Whose responsibility is it to protect the consumers?

This set the stage for today’s sweeping regulatory reform of the U.S. food industry; notably FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, also known as FSMA.

In a nut shell, FSMA aims to keep the U.S. food supply safe. FSMA empowers the FDA to regulate how food is grown, harvested, sourced, processed and labeled. FSMA requires the FDA to undertake multiple rule makings, issue relevant guidance documents, and enforce the new FSMA rules. This raises questions such as:

  • When will these “new” rules come into effect?
  • How will FDA fund the program?
  • Can they make it to work?

Answers to these questions are still pending.

Under FSMA, there will be enforced adoption of “mandatory” compliance programs as opposed to “voluntary” improvements. The food industry may have to conform to new FDA regulations and satisfy compliance requirements that were previously absent.

Two key assumptions regarding FSMA’s impact on the U.S. are:

  1. Their regulatory and compliance responsibilities may increase.
  2. Their cost of doing business may increase.

Strategies and preparedness to improve operational excellence and reduce business risk will likely define U.S. food industries’ success in this challenging, uncertain regulatory climate.

Can FSMA reduce future recalls? Perhaps not but we will save that discussion for another blog. What we can answer today is this-the food industry and the FDA are at the crossroads of change and one can hope that this change will pave the way for a safer food supply for the U.S.  

References

Debarati Bhattacharya
ERS Manager | Business Risk
Deloitte & Touche LLP

 

 

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