- The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released earlier this week its first two "Special Reports" to guide farmers and food and beverage producers in achieving compliance with the FDA's rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
- The report addresses exemptions for qualified facilities, which is an aspect of the process that can become muddled as manufacturers reach certain employee numbers, sales brackets or are acquired by larger food and beverage companies.
- The report also outlines the required contents of a food safety plan, which for many companies could lead to a major overhaul of operations and documentation procedures based on what they already have in place.
A company's food safety plan, as mandated by FSMA, requires several parts where manufacturers may vary widely in terms of how their current operations comply: a hazard analysis, preventive controls, supply chain program, recall plan, procedures for monitoring the implementation of the preventive controls, procedures for taking corrective actions, and verification procedures.
Many companies, particularly major manufacturers, may already have many of these assessment, corrective and documentation procedures in place. But many do not, as food and beverage professionals' confidence in their company's FSMA compliance ranges from 61% to 25%, depending on the survey.
Manufacturers must meet general compliance with the preventive controls rule by August 30, which means non-exempt facilities have less than a month to finalize plans, changes and documentation. Small businesses have another full year from that date to reach compliance, and very small businesses an additional two years.
While the financial, time and labor costs involved in these food safety-related changes could be significant for some companies, the savings over time could far exceed them if changes lead to a risk reduction for product contamination or mislabeling. Such instances can lead to costly recalls that may expand to other brands, companies and countries, as in the case of General Mills' flour recall and a mysterious sugar recall that already impacted ConAgra products.