The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) enacted into law in January 2011 is a sweeping, far-reaching law of critical importance to importers. The premise of FSMA is clear: prevention of food safety problems rather than reaction to them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner has stated that “The legislation significantly enhances FDA’s ability to oversee the millions of food products coming into the United States from other countries each year. Among the improvements is the requirement that importers verify the safety of food from their suppliers and the authority for the FDA to block foods from facilities or countries that refuse our inspection. The FDA will also be working more closely with foreign governments and increasing its inspection of foreign food facilities.”
Yet, even two years after enactment, no one knows quite how the law will or can be implemented. As the administering agency, the FDA, has been charged with establishing requirements for preventive controls; inspection and compliance; response to food safety problems; imported foods; and partnerships with other government agencies: state, local, territorial, tribal, and foreign as well as federal. With respect to imported foods, in early spring 2013 the FDA website noted that FSMA granted FDA extensive authority to:
Thus, importers have much work to do at origin. As of May 2013, deadlines for posting many of the regulations had slipped…a consequence of the broad, complex nature of the legislation. Only one of the regulations pertinent to importers has been issued for public review (in January 2013), that requiring facilities which manufacture, process, pack, or store food for human consumption to identify possible food safety hazards and to establish controls to reduce such risks. This builds upon the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) programs already in place in many cashew processing facilities. The HACCP requirements by themselves require a factory to have a plan for: conducting a hazard analysis; determining the Critical Control Points; and establishing critical limits, monitoring procedures, corrective actions, verification procedures, and record-keeping/documentation requirements. In late June 2013 a federal judge ordered the FDA to publish all proposed rules required by the FSMA by November 30, 2013 and to issue final regulations by June 30, 2015.
The key for importers in meeting the new FDA requirements is product visibility and traceability throughout the entire food supply chain. Importers must establish a Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) through which they will have to verify that their imported foodstuffs meet FDA’s safety standards. In anticipation of such requirements, Red River has established SourceAgent, an internet-based traceability system. Using SourceAgent, a supplier and importer can establish an ID number and barcode for complete supply chain visibility and traceability. To participate, suppliers need only complete an on-line form to include such information as Product Type, Production Date, Shipment Date and Details, and Packaging Data. Via SourceAgent, Red River’s supply chain partners have immediate access to Microbiological Analysis, Certificates of Analysis and Quality, Bills of Lading, Non-GMO Statements, etc. Our suppliers also have the ability to house important “supplier specific” documents including Product Specifications, Kosher, HACCP, ISO, and BRC Certifications, and 3rd Party Audits. Full details of the Red River/SourceAgent system can be viewed at www.SourceAgent.com