The Food Safety Modernization Act

The Food Safety Modernization Act

January 10, 2018

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

The implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) involves the most comprehensive changes to food safety laws in more than 75 years. FSMA essentially changes the way food is regulated in the U.S. and abroad and affects the entire supply chain including farms, food manufacturing and distribution centers, and domestic and imported produce. This overview of FSMA provides key insights for retailers.

  • The goal of FSMA is to make the entire food supply chain safer by focusing on the prevention of food safety problems. FSMA was signed by President Obama on January 4, 2011, and the first phase went into effect in September 2016. With the next phase there will be increased inspections, enhanced response and an emphasis on import safety. 
  • FSMA is a combination of several rules that cover key steps in the food supply chain. The rules are in produce safety, intentional adulteration, human controls, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), sanitary transportation, third-party accreditation, and animal preventive controls.
  • FSMA gives the FDA mandatory recall authority but only after a responsible party fails to issue a voluntary recall. Also, the FDA has not yet issued the final rule that would require the posting of recall information by retailers. 
  • FSVP may affect supermarket record keeping. FSVP requires the importer of a foreign-supplied food to ensure their foreign supplier has met the same standards a U.S. supplier is required to meet. In certain circumstances grocers may meet the definition of an importer for purposes of the rule creating significant new compliance obligations. This includes new recordkeeping and verification requirements.  
  • The Produce Safety rule does not apply to retail stores, but sets minimum standards for produce safety on farms. Although standardized training is available to assist the domestic and foreign produce industry and regulatory personnel to implement the Produce Safety Rule this does not apply to produce employees at retail. 

Supermarket dietitians may want to communicate the basic facts about FSMA so consumers understand the focus on preventing foodborne illness which can increase their confidence in the foods they purchase.  In addition, this is a great time to emphasize the food safety programs at your retailer and communicate the key steps customers can take at home to keep their food safe.

Additional Resources: