Friday, December 31, 2010

US food safety legislation passes -- finally

It's been quite a roller coaster ride for S. 510, the new Food Safety Modernization Act, but it finally passed the US Congress on December 21, 2010, and is headed for President Obama's desk to be signed into law before the end of the year.
Among other provisions, the new law expands the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over about 80% of the US food supply -- not including meat and poultry products regulated by the US Department of Agriculture but including most petfood products -- with mandatory recall powers and expanded access to producers' records. (Currently FDA can only recommend recalls, not mandate them.)
 S. 510 also requires foreign manufacturers importing food into the US to meet the same standards as US growers and facilities, which includes implementing food safety plans and being able to prove they're being followed.
 This provision regarding food safety programs has perhaps the most implications for petfood. I've talked recently with people in the industry, including an executive with a major supplier, who are concerned some smaller petfood manufacturers have no clue how to go about setting up a safety or sanitation program (or how to prove if they already have and follow one).
 This person also relayed anecdotally that inspectors don't necessarily understand petfood processing and how it relates to ensuring and proving safety. For example, he cited a story about an inspector telling a petfood processor that its extruder was a source of contamination -- when in fact, the high heat of extrusion usually kills pathogens and toxins.
 So, a good deal of education and information is needed, and Petfood Industry will try to supply as much as we can. Meanwhile, don't hesitate to start reaching out to people you know in the industry -- suppliers, consultants, peers at other manufacturers, university experts -- to ask for advice or helpful sources of information.
 It will take a while for FDA and other agencies involved to write and implement the regulations coming out of S. 510, but rest assured, those are coming.

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