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The Return of Safe Food? -- A New Law Overhauls the Handling and Processing of Food

Co-authored by Jacob Exline of The Collins Law Firm, P.C.

Food-related injuries and death are often overlooked by the American consumer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses yearly and almost 3,000 of those people die.1 The need for reform of the rules and procedures for the handling and distribution of food is evident by the increasing amount of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Most recently, both Blue Bell Ice Cream and Sunland Peanut Butter had to shut down their production facilities and recall thousands of products from the shelves of retailers.

In response to this growing issue, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released details of a new law that requires businesses in the food industry to comply with stronger and safer food regulations. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which has been in revisions since 2013, is aimed at reforming the way facilities handle food and assess and respond to hazards that often lead to recalls and illnesses.

Under FSMA, facilities must establish and implement a food safety system. This system must include hazard analysis, preventative controls, and oversight management used in an effort to respond and prevent any instances of allergen or sanitation risks. Also, the manufacturing facility must create a risk-based supply chain program in order to identify hazards. These facilities are responsible for ensuring that foods are received only from approved suppliers and the products are subject to verification.

FSMA also creates rules for education and training that must be followed by management to ensure that all employees who manufacture, process, pack or hold food are qualified to perform their duties by having the necessary training or experience. Food hygiene, safety and employee health and hygiene are the most important principles in the training courses. FSMA also requires that employees are educated on how to address allergen cross-contact among foods.2

Facilities must begin to comply with FSMA as early as January 2016. Hopefully, the implementation of the new law, along with growing awareness, will lead to safer and healthier food.

1 Center for Disease Control and Prevention - Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States

2 Food and Drug Administration - FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food

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