Due to widespread and small-scale food-related illness incidents and recalls last year, the food industry and US FDA are facing increased pressures to improve food safety. However, because of contracting budgets and the government shutdown earlier this year, which affected routine FDA inspections, federal and state agencies’ efforts to combat food contamination have slowed down.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) (see IBO 9/30/14) was established to diminish food-related illnesses through prioritizing prevention over inspections. Many important provisions, however, have yet to be adopted by the food industry, including the Produce Safety Rule and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program. An example of this is the importance of utilizing clean water for agricultural purposes, as last year, romaine lettuce and other leafy crops in Arizona were watered using E. coli contaminated canal water, leading to an outbreak of illnesses and recalls of romaine. While certain provisions are scheduled to be enacted in 2019, rules relating to agricultural water have been delayed by an extra 2­–4 years to confirm that the standards are suitable to be adopted by farmers all over the US, a point of contention for many food safety advocates. Experts predict that many more recalls of leafy crops are inevitable if the FDA does not shorten compliance deadlines for agricultural water requirements.

Numerous FSMA regulations for companies and farms are going into effect in 2019. These include: the Produce Safety Rule, which requires US and foreign farms to have processes in place to prevent contamination for the growing, packing and holding of fruit and vegetables (excluding agricultural water); Foreign Supplier Verification Program, requiring US importers to confirm the food they import meets the same safety standards created for US-produced items; Intentional Adulteration Rule, aimed at protecting food supplies and products from harm; and Voluntary Qualified Importer Program, which provides US companies greater control over their import supply chains’ expedited reviews and the importation of foods.

The FDA also plans in 2019 to improve food recalls, disclosing GMO ingredients on food products and possibly drafting regulations for cell-based meat.

Source: Food Quality & Safety

< | >