On January 5, 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed into law by President Obama. The new legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to recall tainted food, quarantine geographical areas and access food producers’ records. According to the FDA, the burden of foodborne illness is considerable. Every year, 1 out of 6 people in the United States — 48 million people — suffers from foodborne illness, more than a hundred thousand are hospitalized, and thousands die. So what does the new legislation mean to food processing companies and manufacturers now?
It seems like we’ll have some time to figure it out as an estimated $1.4 billion dollars will be needed to implement the new processes, including hiring thousands of FDA inspectors.
Additionally, the FDA will be faced with writing regulations which with food processors will have to comply, and new produce safety standards and an inspection schedule will all come under intense scrutiny. You can be sure however, that the new law will involve preventive controls, records maintenance and access, and supply chain management; controls over imports, such as foreign supplier verification and third-party certification; enhanced FDA enforcement of mandatory recalls and more frequent inspections; and, new fees for food companies and importers. Sound familiar? Although change is upon us, many of these topics aren’t new. We’ve been working on them for years.
Consumers are already voicing their thoughts. In one blog, a reader said that the “food industry will get the message” if surprise FDA inspections happen every week. Many others think it’s all a political game and really will do nothing to protect our food supply.
For the industry, we should view the new bill as a building block to what we’ve been striving to perfect – best practices in quality management product and processes.
Food suppliers, and quality management and safety professionals can sit back and play the waiting game along with the politicians, or we can stand up for our industry and give consumers what they want — confidence. How can this be accomplished? A quality and safety management program needs to address the system as a whole – a global program, trained employees, well-documented SOPs and utilizing technology properly to put global practices and procedures in place. A well-designed and implemented safety and quality management system can reduce risk and improve performance and profitability.
By having total automated quality and safety process control, food processing companies can look at achieving consistent yield and uniformity from product to product, and from batch to batch, with increased traceability and trust along your entire production process for complete sustainability.
While the politicians duke it out, let’s assume accountability in our own backyards and invest in our quality and safety management systems now.