FDA overhaul of food safety system largest in more than 100 years

By Clarissa Hawes, contributing writer

Tasked with a congressional mandate in 2010 to overhaul the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's food safety system, the agency has spent the past five years working to finalize the most ground-breaking rules since the first federal food safety law was passed in 1906.

Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine for the FDA, has been spearheading efforts to craft seven major rules as part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to develop a "modern comprehensive food safety system – a system designed to prevent safety problems and to bolster consumer confidence that we are doing everything we can to keep food safe."

On Nov. 13, the FDA released rules for produce farms and imported food "to modernize and strengthen (the) food safety system," according to an FDA press release.

Since the act was signed into law in January 2011, teams of FDA experts have been working to craft the seven rules needed to carry out the Congressional mandate for a food safety system that is up to the challenges of the global food system, Taylor said.

Megan Bensette, FDA spokeswoman, told Land Line the proposed rules are expected to become final rules sometime in 2016.

One regulation directly relevant to truckers involves sanitary transportation of human and animal food.

"The goal of the proposed rule on the sanitary transportation of human and animal food is to prevent practices that create food safety risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads, and failure to properly protect food during transportation," Bensette said.

She said there are some exemptions and modified requirements for small-business truckers under the proposed rule. For example, Bensette said, "Shippers, receivers or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in total annual sales would be exempt."

She added that the FDA recognizes small businesses may need more time to comply with the requirements once they are final. Bensette said small businesses other than motor carriers who are not also shippers/receivers employing less than 500 people and with less than $25.5 million in annual receipts would have to comply two years after the publication of the final rule. LL