How safe is America’s food supply?
The 2017 Food Safety Summit, held last week in Chicago, featured several panels and keynote presentations that focused on how food safety professionals are coping with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the increased likelihood companies and their leaders will be subject to more intensive scrutiny. Even with the new administration pulling back many Obama-era regulations, there is widespread belief in this part of the food industry that enforcement is coming and all trading partners need to be prepared.
The FSMA requires retailers and suppliers to have the documentation for regulatory compliance readily accessible for government inspection, with specific records mandatory for retailers that have a central kitchen or commissary, transport food or are deemed to be the procurer of foreign products. Failure to maintain this data in an easily retrievable format can result not only in fines for the company, but criminal prosecution for the company’s executives.
Shawn Stevens, a noted food industry lawyer, told attendees at the event’s keynote session that it’s important for all retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and affiliates to understand the Food and Drug Administration was commanded by Congress to stop foodborne illness and the impact it has on Americans. His advice is for food pros to learn all aspects of the FSMA and comply quickly, saying the goal now is to avoid making the operational mistakes that may result in criminal exposure.
Jeffrey Steger, assistant director of the Consumer Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), added that companies shouldn’t expect a waning of the federal government’s support of enforcement actions. The DOJ gets involved in cases where there is significant harm to consumers, where food company executives had prior knowledge, and where legal action will protect the integrity of the regulatory system and prevent future harm. The DOJ has pursued many high-profile food industry prosecutions and Mr. Steger believes this trend will continue.
- Food Safety Modernization Act Compliance – U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- GMA FSMA Reference Sheet – Grocery Manufacturers Association
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect that food safety regulation will get more rigorous or less so in the next few years? Do you think the food supply in the U.S. is safer now than it was one year ago? How likely is it be safer two years from now?