In January, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed and signed into law. The bill increases the Food and Drug Administration’s authority over food recalls. It allows the FDA to require food producers to have safety plans and enhances the FDA’s ability to improve the safety of imported foods. The bill, however, does not include any funding provisions to implement the law, estimated at $1.4 billion over five years.
You can read more about the major provisions of this bill in this article (available to ARC clients only). But below are some of the major provisions that will impact logisticians in the food and beverage value chain.
- The FDA Commissioner now has the authority to order a mandatory recall when the agency determines that there is a reasonable probability that a food poses a health hazard. Previously, the agency could only recommend voluntary recalls of food products resulting from possible outbreaks. The FDA would have to negotiate with the manufacturers of the recall and this delayed the recall process. The law allows the FDA to suspend the registration of a food facility associated with unsafe food, thereby preventing it from distributing food.
- The Act expands on registration requirements first implemented by Congress in the 2002 Bioterrorism Act. The Bioterrorism Act required facilities that manufacture, process or pack food to register with the FDA, but exempted retail food establishments and farms. The new legislation only exempts family and smaller growers. Initially, however, these smaller companies are only exempt for one and two years after the law is implemented.
- Imported foods will be inspected and subjected to the same standards in place for US foods. The FDA now has the authority to block foods from facilities or countries that refuse FDA inspections. The FDA will also increase its inspection of foreign facilities that produce foods imported into the US.
- The FDA is required to establish, as appropriate, “a product tracing system to receive information that improves the capacity to effectively and rapidly track and trace food that is in the United States or offered for import into the United States.”
A provision of the FSMA also requires companies to enhance their track and trace capabilities – rapidly tracing back from where a product was received and tracking forwards to where it was sent. This will create massive amounts of information that companies will have to manage and integrate to provide complete traceability across the supply chain.
The Bioterrorism Act included a “one step forward, one step back” traceability records requirement. The main difference is that the new law requires the FDA to run pilot tests that cover the entire supply chain, including farms and restaurants, and make a recommendation to Congress shortly thereafter. Our analysts in this area – Janice Abel, John Blanchard, and Tom Fiske – believe that the FDA will most likely recommend to Congress the utilization of electronic track and trace systems that can track the food genealogy throughout the supply chain.
Of course, track and trace for the purpose of recalls is a bit like opening the barn door after the horse has left. When track and trace encompasses the complete supply chain, these technologies can be extended to allow consumers to use cell phones to capture information about the food product. Consumers can learn where the produce was grown, who grew it, expiration dates, and if the food was recalled. Shoppers can scan the sticker with their smartphones or go to the website and enter the number from the sticker to track the path the food has taken and other information the farmer chooses to share, such as the harvest date. All of this information could be available almost immediately.
More control over fresh fruits and vegetables will have a positive impact on food safety. It also offers a major opportunity for Supply Chain Execution and AutoID vendors to provide new solutions that will fulfill the emerging dictates of this new legislation.