The Food Safety Modernization Act
Posted on January 7, 2011
Earlier this week, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law. With the new law comes the most comprehensive overhaul of our food safety system since 1938. If you think about how technology and our knowledge of food safety have evolved in the last 70 years, I’d say this revamp is long overdue.
One of the biggest problems people have had with the current food safety system is that it’s mostly reactionary. This means that only when things go wrong do the regulatory agencies spring into action and track down the cause of food poisoning. The new law aims to shift the focus to the proactive side and prevent food poisoning outbreaks from ever occurring. Here are a few examples of how the new law updates our current food safety system:
|FDA Versus USDAThe new law expands the powers of the Food and Drug Administration which oversees 80% of our food supply. The only thing the FDA doesn’t regulate is meat, poultry and eggs, which fall under the USDA’s jurisdiction.|
- Recall authority. Producers and consumers alike have been demanding that the FDA be given recall authority for a long time. Finally, the FDA has the power to order a food company to recall potentially tainted food, and there may be fees attached to any recalls. Until now, recalls were strictly voluntary. This provision will hopefully minimize the number of people affected by tainted food.
- More regulation of imports. The FDA must now establish offices in countries that export food to the U.S. Further more, FDA can require food safety certification of all food entering the country and block any imports that come from suspect sources or sources that refuse FDA inspection.
- Produce tracking. Recent history has shown that tracking down the source of a food poisoning outbreak can be a dodgy business at best. This new law tasks the FDA to work in conjunction with the produce industry to develop methods to better track fruits and vegetables from the farm to the table, so the source of tainted food can be immediately identified.
- More funding for staff training. Additional funds ($1.4 billion over five years) will be allotted to the FDA to hire and train more inspectors and invest in food safety programs. There is some debate about whether the funding is too much or not enough, but I think most people will agree that investing more money into food safety is a wise choice. (Source)
- Increased inspection frequency. The best way for the FDA to assure compliance with food-safety standards is through regularly inspecting food manufacturers. Prior to this new law, facilities were inspected once every decade, if they were lucky. Now, inspections are slated to occur once every five years. Also, plants that need to be re-inspected due to lack of compliance may be fined by the FDA.
- Hazard prevention. Food production facilities are required to identify all hazardous practices in their facilities and what preventative measures they are going to implement going forward. Essentially, all food producers are required to put a HACCP plan together. Furthermore, the FDA has to identify significant threats to food safety every couple of years and provide food production companies with outlines and regulations to address these threats.
From the restaurant owner and consumer perspective, this law sounds like a win all the way around. I don’t think too many people will argue that more regulation of the food supply chain was needed. Hopefully this new law will assure that all of the food we buy is as safe as it can possibly be.