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What You Need to Know About the Food Safety Modernization Act

What you need to know about the Food Safety Modernization Act. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
What you need to know about the Food Safety Modernization Act. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, is a set of regulations designed to improve food safety. First introduced in 2011, President Obama put the Food Safety Modernization Act into effect to help prevent illness and disease spread through food.

Before the Food Safety Modernization Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, was only reactive to the spread of food-borne illnesses. When a problem appeared, the FDA would do what they could to solve it and return the effected individuals back to health.

The Food Safety Modernization Act takes a different approach. Under the FSMA, companies in the food and beverage industry must comply with certain standards to prevent food-borne illnesses from happening in the first place.

But knowing and understanding the Food Safety Modernization Act is important for more than just food businesses and food distributors. Because the FSMA influences the food that you eat, knowing the details of what the Food Safety Modernization Act includes is important.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services oversees food safety inspections in the United States to ensure everyone effectively follows the FSMA. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services oversees food safety inspections in the United States to ensure everyone effectively follows the FSMA. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

What makes the Food Safety Modernization Act different?

There have been many different food safety acts that have been put in place to protect consumers and buyers from food-borne illnesses. However, the former acts were primarily designed to solve problems after they happened. The focus of the Food Safety Modernization Act is to change behaviors and habits to prevent those negative results from happening in the first place.

Additionally, the FSMA is an all-encompassing law. Instead of having dozens of acts that may overlap or cause confusion, the FSMA sets out a clear path for both businesses and food transporters.

When did the Food Safety Modernization Act come into effect?

While President Obama enacted the Food Safety and Modernization Act in 2011, it wasn’t an immediate requirement for companies or transportation businesses. The government delayed the effective start date to 2017 or 2018, depending on business size, to give suppliers time to adjust to the changes.

The compliance date for small businesses is September 2017, while the date for very small businesses isn’t until September 2018. In September 2017, small receiving facilities and suppliers will need to comply with the Preventative Control for Human Food Rule or Produce Safety Rule. Staggering the compliance dates and allowing smaller businesses more time gives them an opportunity to make lasting adjustments and changes.

Many companies and transporters already comply with the regulations of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The  U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA,  Food Safety and Inspection Services, or FSIS, oversees food safety inspections in the United States to ensure everyone effectively follows the FSMA.

When the full Act takes effect, the FSIS will be responsible for implementing the various rules and regulations and on-site inspections for compliance.

The Food Safety Modernization Act puts pressure on the proper transportation of food and food items. (Image: Walmart via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

The Food Safety Modernization Act puts pressure on the proper transportation of food and food items. (Image: Walmart via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

The Food Safety Modernization Act also focuses on transportation

Food transportation requires items to pass through many different hands, machines, and processes. Somewhere along the line, it may become contaminated or spoil. If that food makes it onto the grocery store shelves, people can get sick.

The Food Safety Modernization Act puts pressure on the proper transportation of food and food items. It sets regulations for food storage during transport, temperature control, and food handling. By setting standards for the proper way to carry food and items, fewer problems will result.

However, there may still be problems with food entering the U.S.  from other countries. While the Food Safety Modernization Act sets standards for how the food should be moved, transported, and handled in the United States, it cannot impose the same regulations on foods entering the country.

The Food Safety Modernization Act cannot impose the same regulations on foods entering the country. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The Food Safety Modernization Act cannot impose the same regulations on foods entering the country. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

What is the Sanitary Transportation Rule?

One of the recent additions to the Food Safety Modernization Act is the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule. Under the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule, food or food ingredients must move from location to location without contamination. This includes specific regulations about the way that food is shipped, received, carried, and loaded.

With the Sanitary Transportation Rule, more and more food businesses and transportation companies are choosing to use plastic pallets instead of traditional wood pallets. Plastic pallets are much easier to clean than traditional wood pallets, making them more sanitary. They also do not break, chip, or decompose in the same way that wood pallets do. This eliminates bacteria and the risk of food contamination.

As the Food Safety Modernization Act begins to take effect, we will see positive practices of transporting and handling food items. When new practices are established and carefully monitored, we should also see lower instances of contaminated food and food-borne illnesses.

Megan Ray Nichols

 

This article was written by Megan Ray Nichols. If you enjoyed this article, please visit her page Schooled by Science.

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