FDA Misses FSMA Deadline - What Food Processors Can do to be Compliant for Later

The Food and Drug Administration was supposed to implement the preventive controls requirement and a voluntary qualified importer program but has not met its own requirement.

By Tim Lozier, EtQ

Summer is here and the FDA has missed another deadline to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. By this point, the FDA was supposed to implement the preventive controls requirement and a voluntary qualified importer program. This has not happened, and many are asking why.

One reason is a matter of politics and budget. As you may know, we are in an election year, and budgets get tighter this time of year – that’s just politics. Another reason is in the complexity of the framework. The law itself is fairly simple, but once you get into the details, it becomes complex to get it right for the industry.

The industry however, is not resting on its laurels and waiting for the FSMA to roll out. Food Safety is an ever-present concern, and organizations are working hard to maintain their brand and customer loyalty by providing safe, quality foods. So, while the FSMA seems to be a moving target, there are some important steps businesses can take to prepare to FSMA implementation:

  • Continue to Implement the GFSI Schemes: Back in February, Michael R. Taylor, the Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the FDA, spoke at the GFSI Conference in Orlando. In his speech, he stressed the importance of collaboration with GFSI in framing out the FSMA framework. GFSI Compliance schemes like Safe Quality Food, ISO 22000, Dutch HACCP, and BRC are being adopted by the largest corporations in order to meet the needs of consumers. So, what is the FDA doing with the GFSI? They are listening, and that's the first step; tighter collaboration means there will be more overlap in the compliance requirements. There never any guarantee, but those companies who adopt GFSI compliance schemes will have an easier transition to FSMA that those who do not.
  • Technology Adoption will Streamline Food Safety Management: Food Safety technologies have been undergoing an evolution in the past few years. As more and more companies realize the importance of streamlining their foods safety processes, more and more technology solutions are falling in line with their needs. Right now, GFSI compliance is the top priority; but as more details of the FSMA regulations come out, technology will be on the leading edge to help make the transition easier.
  • Supply-Chain Food Safety Alignment is Key: Part of the FSMA overhaul involves the supply chain, particularly foreign suppliers. The FDA cannot necessarily extend beyond their jurisdiction, but they can enforce incoming goods from foreign suppliers. The key to control is actually two-fold; the vendor needs to ensure quality down their supply chain, and the FDA needs to control the quality and safety of the goods that come into the country. Technology is the key to this success. Supplier Management Systems centered around Food Safety and Food Quality become a critical factor in ensuring suppliers' goods meet U.S. standards. Creating visibility into your supplier's Food safety system and enabling them to respond to Quality and Safety issues within your Food Safety Management System will ultimately reduce the number of safety events, and increase the ability for foreign suppliers to bring safe quality goods to the country.
There's no magic bullet for the FDA in their journey towards Food Safety Modernization. However, they are staring down a 5-year plan that will have to overcome budget cuts, resource constraints, and the ability to build a framework that delivers on its promise to the public. The FDA has their work cut out for them, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for them. Start building your own framework that will provide a strong level of compliance today, and make for an easy transition tomorrow.