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Keeping Abreast of Food Safety Regulations in the Wake of the Food Safety Modernization Act
Within the past year, everything from eggs to tuna has been recalled. In early 2010, Kellogg's recalled 28 million boxes of its popular cereals because of waxy taste and smells. An organic beef producer recalled thousands of pounds of E. coli contaminated beef and a California company recalled thousands of pounds of frozen fish in early December 2010. Congress recently passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in an effort to combat foodborne illness outbreaks. Food and beverage companies, therefore, should take note of the significance of this new law.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 3,000 people die and 48 million (1 in 6) become ill each year as a result of foodborne illnesses. Many factors are to blame when food products become contaminated. Some companies are negligent in the methods they utilize to manufacture their products, some companies fail to appropriately distribute, and some consumers fail to properly prepare and handle food items. Whatever the case, food recalls are never predictable so it's important for companies to keep abreast of new legislation, such as the FSMA.
Important New Provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act
Recently signed into law, the FSMA gives a much broader authority to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) including but not limited to:
- An easier access to records. When the FDA determines a "reasonable probability" of serious health consequences has occurred, the agency will have the authority to access a company's records of other food affected in a similar manner.
- Recall authority. The FDA can order a mandatory recall of a product if it finds there is a "reasonable probability" that food has been adulterated or misbranded and a serious adverse health consequence could potentially result.
- Increased number of inspections. The regularity of inspections by the FDA will increase.
- Protection for whistleblowers. The FSMA will protect employees who protest or complain about a potential violation of the act, reveal information regarding potential violations of the act, or partake in proceedings involving violations of the act.
It is vital that food and beverage companies understand the liability involved if their manufacture, storage and delivery processes contribute to unsafe food entering the marketplace.
If you and your business needs assistance understanding the new policies of the FSMA or help defending against a foodborne illness claim, seeking the help of an experienced business law attorney is recommended.