About the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

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Salmonella in peanut butter, mangoes and cantaloupes...concerns about arsenic in rice products...rodent infestation in a food storage warehouse...warnings about bacteria in shellfish...these are a few of the most recent issues surrounding our food safety. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foodborne illness affects 1 in 6 people in the United States each year. Of these people, almost 130,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from complications related to food poisoning.

The goals of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law in 2011 and finalized in November 2015, are to support and strengthen the food safety system and prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness. The focus of this law—the largest food safety reform in the United States in more than 70 years—is prevention. According to the FDA, it's important to prevent problems with the food supply before people (and/or animals) become ill.

The framework of the FSMA for food safety includes the following:

  • Human food
  • Produce safety
  • Imported food
  • Animal food

According to the FSMA, seven laws are being developed to establish requirements for farmers, companies that produce food, and importers of foreign foods to help prevent foodborne illnesses. The first two laws were submitted for further review and public comment in 2013 and were finalized in September 2015.

1. Preventive controls for human food—This law sets requirements for companies and facilities that process, package, or store food. It requires such facilities to develop and implement science-based measures and controls to prevent foodborne illnesses.

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2. Produce safety—This law requires the development of safety standards, based on scientific information, for growing, harvesting, storing, and packaging fruits and vegetables on farms.

Laws that are still in development and have not yet been proposed include the following:

3. Foreign supplier verification for food importers—According to this law, importers of food to the United States will have to verify that foreign suppliers are following food safety procedures that provide the same health protection as domestic food producers. (The FDA reports that about 15 percent of the current food supply in the United States is imported—including 49 percent of fresh fruit and 21 percent of vegetables.)

4. Accredited third party certification—This law will require third-party auditors to help make sure that producers who export food to the United States comply with U.S. food safety rules.

5. Preventive controls for animal food—This law will set requirements similar to those for human food for the processing, packaging, and storing of animal food.

Preventive Controls for Human Food

There are more than 166,000 registered domestic food facilities in the United States that manufacture, process and store (e.g., warehouses, storage tanks, grain elevators) human food. Under the FSMA, most of these facilities will be required to develop a formal plan that:

  • Evaluates specific hazards and risks to the facility's food product(s) (e.g., bacteria, allergens)
  • Outlines specific steps the facility will take to reduce or eliminate those risks
  • Describes how the facility's control measures will be monitored
  • Maintains detailed records of the control process
  • Identifies procedures that will be implemented to correct any problems that develop

According to the law, the FDA will evaluate each plan and continue to inspect each facility.

Produce Safety

This law addresses concerns about agriculture, including the following:

  • Irrigation and other watering procedures
  • Hygiene of workers involved in growing, harvesting, or packaging produce
  • Use of manure and other products (e.g., pesticides)
  • Animals in growing fields
  • Sanitary condition of buildings, equipment, and tools

This law also contains special provisions related to sprouts. Sprouts are more vulnerable to disease-causing bacteria than other types of produce (fruits and vegetables).

As we continue to make progress to improve the safety of our food through the Food Safety Modernization Act and other measures, it's important to take steps to prevent food poisoning to ensure the food you serve to your family is as safe as possible.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 09 Jan 2013

Last Modified: 23 Nov 2015