From the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to the Reportable Food Registry to calls for increased penalties for some food safety violators, food safety is clearly on the national radar. What many are unaware of is the extent to which these new food safety regulations impact the feed and grain industries.
FDA regulates animal and pet food products and ingredients under the same authority and regulations as it does human food products — the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act. The regulations are essentially the same for all food products, whether for human or animal consumption: Food must be safe to eat, must be produced in sanitary conditions, must not contain any harmful substances, and must be labeled properly and truthfully.
What is the Food Safety Modernization Act?
FSMA is the first significant update and expansion of FDA’s food safety regulatory powers in approximately 70 years. It is a comprehensive bill that can roughly be divided into three areas of focus: prevention, detection and response, and imported foods. With very few exceptions, these provisions apply to the animal feed industry.
FSMA puts a heavy emphasis on improving the safety of imported foods and ingredients. Much of the media focus has been on the human food supply, but imported animal feed and pet food products have also been a problem.
FSMA takes major steps toward increasing regulation of imported food products. The regulations apply the same, whether the product is destined for human or animal consumption. One of the new programs is the foreign supplier verification program. This program will require importers to conduct risk-based verifications of foreign suppliers to ensure the suppliers are complying with food safety requirements. Importers would also need to verify that foreign suppliers are not producing adulterated or misbranded food. Importers are responsible for verifying foreign supplier compliance and keeping records of those verification efforts for at least two years.
For purposes of this program, Congress has defined an importer as the owner of a food item or ingredient at the time it enters the United States, or if none, the U.S. agent or representative of the foreign owner. At this time, we have only the skeletal framework of this program, and FDA is in the process of developing the regulations that will provide further information. FSMA requires FDA release regulations regarding the foreign supplier verification program by January 2012.
In addition to the verification program, the FSMA also includes a new voluntary qualified importer program. This program will allow importers to seek expedited review and importation of certain foods from qualified foreign facilities — in essence, a fast track. FDA will look at a number of factors, including the food type’s risk, the importer’s compliance history, the exporting country’s food safety system, the importer’s record-keeping practices and the risk of adulteration, to determine if importers are qualified. Details of the program are sparse at this point.
FDA is also empowered to require a certificate of compliance before it allows the import of certain high-risk foods. These would be foods identified due to known risks associated with that food, risks relating to country of origin and/or a finding that the country of origin cannot adequately ensure that U.S. food safety standards are being met. For example, in 2007, FDA determined that melamine was contaminating wheat gluten produced in China used in hog feed here in the United States. If a similar type of contamination concern arose today, FDA could require that all wheat gluten imported from China provide a certificate of compliance before it was allowed to enter the United States.
While we will not see regulations released by FDA for about a year, companies should now start to gather information and records, such as identifying their foreign suppliers of feed ingredients and begin to work with those suppliers in anticipation of the upcoming regulations.