Confusion about deadlines established under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been heightened, in part, by shifting Food & Drug Administration (FDA) timelines. Even after the rules become final, most companies affected will be given one to three years to comply. Produce farms will have from two to four years to comply.
This gives companies latitude in how they will meet the new requirements, according to a new study from PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. Compiled from 64 interviews with manufacturing professionals, the report details food manufacturers’ perceptions of FSMA and how equipment manufacturers can best help them respond to the upcoming regulations.
Some companies affected will install new machinery, while others will attempt to squeeze acceptable performance out of legacy equipment with modifications and upgrades.
The three aspects of the FSMA that are most likely to impact both food producers and equipment manufacturers include rules governing:
• Preventive control
• Recordkeeping and traceability
• Sanitary equipment design
Several food safety experts indicated that, of the many new rules that will be implemented as part of the FSMA, the Preventive Control Rules are likely to have some of the earliest and most significant effects on food producers. These rules state that:
• Each facility in the food supply chain must implement a written food safety plan that focuses on preventing hazards in foods.
• Operators of each facility need to understand the hazards likely to occur in their operation and to have preventive controls to minimize or prevent the hazards.
Companies with inadequate preventive controls risk making people sick. This in turn may lead to poor publicity and brand destruction, which in turn risks a company’s viability. Thus, in reducing the risk of food safety incidents, PMMI reasons that preventive control rules will, ideally, help companies reduce business risks.
Traceability is expected to represent one of the greatest costs of FSMA compliance. However, the food industry generally recognizes that successful systems will enhance public health and safety, and at the same time reduce manufacturer liability.
Future food safety laws are expected to address food defense and importing issues even more vigorously. The FSMA recommends that equipment makers study the proposed and final regulations and third party guidelines, participate in industry responses, incorporate the regulations into their strategy, and prepare to offer enhanced services for customers who will need training and consulting services.