News Feature | June 24, 2015

Prepare Today For Coming FSMA Changes

By Isaac Fletcher, contributing writer, Food Online

FSMA Changes

FSMA presents big challenges for the food industry, but with proper preparation, companies can make sure they are capable of adequately reaching, or exceeding, compliance.

FSMA is the most significant reform of American food safety laws in over 70 years, and across the industry, companies are preparing for the upcoming changes. One of the primary goals of FSMA is to establish better preventive practices rather than reactive ones so that fewer food safety issues ever arise.

A preventive approach means new requirements and points of focus, and the food industry must consider many factors in preparing for the coming regulatory changes. In order to fully comply with new food safety laws, companies will need to take a new perspective when it comes to areas such as preventive controls, inspection, and safety.

The best course of action that companies can take to adequately prepare for FSMA is to plan ahead. Although such a massive overhaul of food safety legislation presents many challenges for the industry, careful planning will greatly ease the transition into a new regulatory environment.

Education And Training

One of the biggest challenges the industry will face in preparing for FSMA is adequate education about the new rules and how they will be enforced. When it comes to proper education, part of the onus falls upon the FDA, and the agency will need to provide guidance, especially for small- and medium-sized food companies.

As more information and literature is released about the coming changes, companies should dedicate time and resources to furthering their understanding of the new requirements and how close those requirements are to implementation. It is also essential that employees of the company understand why compliance is so important so that a food safety culture can be established.

Building A Team

With many areas of operation likely to be affected by new laws, companies that form a FSMA steering team will find themselves a step ahead when it comes to developing and executing plans. This means not only assembling internal teams, but also bringing in outside expertise as needed. Companies can also benefit from working alongside other members of the food industry to reach compliance. When food safety concerns arise, they often affect the entire industry, so it is important for companies to be willing to work together to achieve FSMA success.

Implementing Preventive Controls Now

Some food industry members have expressed concerns over making too many changes in the absence of finalized rules, fearing that making changes now only for laws to be further retooled in the future will result in wasted time and resources. However, there is a great deal of detailed information available for some aspects of FSMA. One such area is checklist for implementing preventive controls, which is something companies should do now in order to stay ahead.

Implementing preventive controls involves the following:

  • Conducting hazard analysis
  • Developing sanitation analysis for food contact surfaces
  • Training employees of all levels on basic hygiene
  • Implementing environmental monitoring programs to verify the effectiveness of pathogen controls, particularly in processes wherein food is exposed to a contamination risk
  • Developing an allergen control program
  • Establishing a recall plan
  • Conducting supplier verification activities
  • Ensuring that a food safety plan is documented and that it is being followed

Staying Ahead

Planning and staying ahead will do wonders in helping companies reach compliance. Taking action now means not only that less will need to be done later, but also that any gaps or hurdles in reaching compliance can be identified and addressed early on.