The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in 2011, is widely considered to be the most comprehensive reform of U.S. food safety laws since 1938. Drafted as a response to several high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness, the law affects every aspect of the American food system, from farming to processing and shipping. Its most significant changes move the responsibility for preventing contamination away from government agencies and inspectors, and onto producers and processors.
In 2018, we saw the continued rollout and implementation of several of the law’s key provisions. In this article, we look at how these will affect food industry businesses going forward.
The Produce Safety Rule
Section 105 of FSMA outlines the Produce Safety Rule, which establishes an evidence-based approach to safe harvesting and production of fruits and vegetables. The rule covers several topics, including:
- Worker health, hygiene and training
- Agricultural water quality
- Biological soil amendments
- Domesticated and wild animals
- Equipment, tools, buildings and sanitation
- Sprout production
The rule applies to almost all commercially sold produce, except products that are rarely consumed raw, or that undergo significant processing to kill harmful microorganisms. Farms that produce an annual value of less than $25,000, as well as fruits and vegetables grown for personal or on-farm use, are exempt from the rule.
Speaking to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in September 2017, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke of the department’s decision to focus on education and announced that states would be given additional time to develop and deploy regulator training programs.
While large produce farms are required to be compliant with produce safety requirements by Jan. 26, 2018, Gottlieb announced that inspections would not begin until the following year. In the meantime, the FDA will be committed to training state regulators.
The Sanitary Transportation Rule
The Sanitary Transportation Rule is another component of FSMA, one that relates directly to warehouses and logistics companies that work with the food industry. The rule outlines the responsibilities of four entities, each of which has specific compliance requirements:
- Shippers, who arrange an item’s transportation and are required to develop procedures for keeping food safe and sanitary, and to maintain a record of their efforts to communicate with other stakeholders
- Loaders, who move the food from the warehouse onto a vehicle for transportation and are required to confirm that the vehicle is in acceptable condition before doing so
- Carriers, who transport food between locations and are required to develop protocol for cleaning, inspecting and other tasks necessary to maintain sanitary conditions during transport
- Receivers, who receive the food at their destination and are required to check for and report any concerns
Most operations that follow best practices for food handling will have little trouble accommodating the Sanitary Transportation Rule and other provisions of FSMA. As a business, the best thing you can do is to continue to educate yourself about the law and its implications for the way you work.
As FSMA continues to be rolled out, it is a great time to upgrade your material handling systems. Polymer Solutions International, Inc. sells a wide range of sanitary pallets and other products suitable for food use. Explore our catalog online, start a Live Chat Session or contact us directly at 610-325-7500.