Industry Reacts to FSMA Rules

The retail food indusry's leading trade groups have had varying reactions to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) release of three final rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): the Produce Safety Rule, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) Rule and Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors Rule.

The long-awaited final rules, which address foreign supplier verification, produce safety, and third-party certification, "reflect many, but not all, of the amendments PMA and other leading food trade organizations have recommended in their comments to FDA in the last few years,” said Jim Gorny, VP of food safety and technology for the Produce Marketing Association. “We’re pleased that FDA considered the practical needs of the produce industry; however, we still have concerns and questions about some of the specific implementation details regarding these rules.”

The publication of the FSMA rules, Gorney added, "is not an endpoint but rather a beginning, which now requires understanding, planning, implementation and verification by businesses. To that end, we’re pleased to learn FDA will also soon be issuing important companion guidance documents for these final rules that will provide more detailed information about coverage and compliance requirements.”The release of three additional final rules affecting the food retail supply chain under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has won the approval of the food industry, with Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and other trade groups commending the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) effort to develop workable regulations with analogous resources in order to ensure the security of the food supply."

Meanwhile, Hilary Thesmar, VP of food safety programs at FMI, said the Arlington, Va.-based trade group "continues to stress an enterprise-wide culture of food safety to not only comply with the rules, but also instill a greater sense of responsibility for food safety all along the supply chain. It's this preventive and risk-based mentality that will help all parties coordinate under the Food Safety Modernization Act."

However, the final foreign supplier verification rule will most significantly impact food retailers importing products into the United States. In turn, Thesmar said FMI believes "the rule should be in line with other GFSI-benchmarked schemes, like FMI’s Safe Quality Food Institute program. FDA’s rule should support rather than supplant global food safety practices."

'Comprehensive Preventive Measures'

Meanwhile, the Washington-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), said the final FSMA rules "place new responsibilities on food and beverage manufacturers and provide the FDA with the regulatory oversight and authorities it needs to further strengthen our nation’s food safety net. FSMA represents a comprehensive system of preventive measures, so it is essential that FDA be appropriately resourced to effectively implement and enforce all of the food safety mandates set forth in the law. The food and beverage industry is committed to working with Congress, the Obama Administration and all stakeholders to ensure that Congress appropriates the necessary funding for FDA to fully implement FSMA."

Looking ahead, PMA's Gorny said there will be an opportunity to provide comments on the forthcoming draft guidance documents, and produce industry members will be able to interact with FDA and ask questions about the rules and their implementation requirements in two free 90-minute December webinars hosted by PMA and United Fresh Produce Association, in partnership with regional produce associations.

Noting his organization's longtime advocacy of federal, risk-based and commodity-specific food safety standards for all fresh produce – wherever grown – to assure the safest products possible, Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said the rules are "the culmination of years of efforts by FDA and the fresh produce industry to develop reasonable, fair and practical standards for both domestic and foreign growers, based on the best available science."

Following careful review of the new rules to ensure both industry and government officials "have clear and common expectations in implementing these requirements," Stenzel pledged that United Fresh will work "diligently with FDA, USDA, other countries’ regulatory agencies, state departments of agriculture and universities to ensure that all growers understand and meet these standards."



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