Many people, especially consultants and technology vendors, have been throwing out worries about looming requirements for food manufacturers and distributors from the Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law in 2011.
But details are often vague at best. What is really in the law, and what if any regulations have been put in place? What is the timeline going to be for additional rules?
SCDigest tackled all these questions and more in a recent Videocast on our Supply Chain Television Channel with an expert panel on the subject that included:
• Jennifer McEntire, Senior Director – Food and Import Safety, for consulting and research firm Leavitt Partners
• Jeanne Iglesias, Senior Director, Industry Affairs & Collaboration, at the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)
• Tom Kozenski, Vice President of Product Strategy at JDA Software
McEntire is well into the details of the law and what has and has not happened with regard to actual regulations. She started off by noting the basic concept that the purpose of traceability in the food supply chain is to be able to recall any food that could pose a danger to the public as quickly as possible. The better the food can be tracked, the faster and easier that recall becomes.
The 2002 Bioterrorism Act led to regulations in 2005 from the FDA promulgating in part the "one up, one back" rule, under which companies have to document who they received food products from and who if anyone they then ship those products to.
The 2011 FSMA act could – but has not really as yet – require much higher standards of traceability, McEntire said. Only two specific rules have thus far been proposed by the FDA - one involving preventive control procedures and the other on produce safety – and though both will require additional record keeping, neither involves enhanced traceability.
But there is possibly a lot more to come. FSMA required the FDA to conduct a series of pilots related to traceability, looking at what processes and technologies could and should be deployed to improve visibility and control of the food supply chain.
Those tests were completed in mid-2012 under McEntire's leadership, and after several months of delay, the report has just recently been released. We will have details on the findings shortly in SCDigest. While traceability requirements potentially could ultimately come out of those test results, there is nothing in place from rules perspective yet from the FDA.
McEntire said another key element of FSMA is that any increased traceability requirements must be limited to what the law calls "high risk foods," presumably meant to refer to foods with a history of frequent issues or ones that might or have cause serious illness or death.
What foods will be placed into that high risk category? No one knows at this point, McEntire said, and neither whether the number will be a few or a lot. Later in the QA session, she also noted that it wasn't clear if say a potentially high risk food like tomatoes might then lead to other products that use tomatoes also being considered high risk. If the answer turns out to be Yes, that would pull a lot more products and companies into the enhanced food traceability requirements.
"FSMA did not give the FDA the authority to change food traceability requirements across the board," McEntire said.
(Supply Chain Trends and Issues Article - Continued Below)