Nutrition-wise blog

New food safety rules

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. December 9, 2015

Although it's taken more than four years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun releasing the rules that will help implement the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The aim of FSMA is to shift the focus from reacting to incidents of food contamination to taking actions to prevent them.

Under the Act, the FDA has a mandate to develop and implement science-based systems to ensure a safer food chain — from farm to table. Here is a quick look at five of the seven FSMA rules that have been released thus far:

  • Production of human food. Companies that produce human foods are now required to develop and implement written food safety plans. These plans must outline the steps that are taken to prevent or minimize problems. The rule includes requirements to verify that monitoring is conducted.
  • Production of animal feed. Companies that produce animal feed are required to develop, implement, monitor and verify that animals get safe food too. This also helps ensure the safety of animal products consumed by humans.
  • Produce safety. This rule establishes science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce. It addresses naturally-occurring risks and sets requirements for water quality and soil contaminants from animals (manure). It also addresses man-made risks and sets standards for employee hygiene, and sanitation of tools and equipment used in processing produce. The standards are intended to minimize the risk of contamination.
  • Foreign suppliers. This rule requires food importers to take steps to verify that the foods they import to the U.S. meet the same standards required of U.S. farms and food companies.
  • Third-party certification. This rule establishes a program for accrediting inspectors to conduct audits and to certify that domestic and foreign food facilities and foods meet FDA food safety requirements.

The last two rules, about sanitary transport of food and intentional adulteration of food, are due out in 2016.

From my perspective, FSMA lays the foundation for a prevention-based food safety system. The process of developing the framework has included input from all parts of the food chain —growers, harvesters, transporters, processors and consumers. The framework and rules modernize our global food system, clarify responsibilities and authority, and emphasize a safe food supply.

Now that the FDA is implementing the rules mandated by Congress to ensure food safety, it will be interesting to see if funds will be appropriated to put the rules into effect. According to the FDA, without this funding, FSMA implementation will be disrupted and delayed.

As a nutritionist — and a consumer — I know this is important. We all deserve safe food. Thoughts?

— Jennifer

Dec. 09, 2015