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September 18, 2017: Enforcement Date for Food Safety Plans

I am writing this on September 18th, 2017. For over a year I have trained people in workshops that this date is the FDA enforcement date for all food companies as regulated under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)’s Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. The small companies had more time for compliance, but this is it. Time is up.

Going forward from this day, all food companies in the United States earning more than $1 million in annual revenue must have a written food safety plan. The written food safety plan starts with a written hazard analysis and ends with a written recall plan. The food safety plan must meet the requirements in Subpart C of the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. Today changes the way I teach, the way FDA enforces, and the way food companies prove food safety.

Even though today is the day, word on the street is that the FDA is a little behind on FSMA inspections. The FDA has done a great job training inspectors, providing guidance, and giving inspectors the tools they need. I hear that FSMA inspections will be more like audits: with the emphasis on review of the food safety plan and employee training records. There will be less time walking the line and more time reviewing monitoring and verification records. That being said, most FDA inspections are still for Good Manufacturing Practices, found in Subpart B of the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. If your company manufactures a product that has been recalled by a competitor or is known to be under high scrutiny by the FDA, then you should be prepared for an inspection in the near future. If not, you may have more time to prepare.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Did you find this blog post because your food safety plan is not finished or you feel it is lacking? I do not want you to feel alone or isolated from the resources and help you need. There are plenty of food companies still writing their food safety plans, so you are in good company if yours is not yet complete. You have landed in the right place – let ConnectFood help you get it done!

ConnectFood is a great tool to write your food safety plan. You can choose the free option, which is a good place to start, or you can subscribe for a low, reasonable cost. By subscribing, you will have access to the ConnectFood experts, like ConnectFood CEO Matthew Botos, myself, and other ConnectFood experts. If we don’t have the answer, we have a vast network of food safety experts to get you the answers you need.

Please comment on this blog post below. I love feedback! Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

Kathy Knutson, Ph.D., Lead Instructor for Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), and trained in prevention of Intentional Adulteration (IA). She has food safety expertise in microbiology, hazard analysis, and risk assessment. As a recovering academic, she resides in Green Bay home-of-the-Packers, Wisconsin with her brilliant husband and two handsome sons. Learn more about her consulting services at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd.

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What is the Food Safety Modernization Act?

In June 2016 I started teaching a workshop with FDA-recognized curriculum. Everyone was there to get a certificate as a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI). After a day of training, someone asked, “What is FSMA?” Much to my own surprise I could not succinctly articulate the extent of FSMA nor did the curriculum do a great job of summarizing FSMA. After much research on the FDA and Federal Register websites, I have this summary for you.

FSMA is the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, signed by President Obama in January of 2011. The purpose is to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to hazards to preventing them (https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/). I now understand there are seven foundation rules with FSMA, all under the jurisdiction of the FDA. All seven rules were published from September 2015 to May 2016 with unique compliance dates. Most of you reading this are going to want information on the rule for the manufacture of human food. The preventive controls for human food final rule requires a written food safety plan, record-keeping, a recall plan, and oversight by a PCQI. A future blog will detail the role of a PCQI.

Final rule: Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food
Who? Human food manufacturers and their ingredient suppliers

When? Initial compliance date of September 2016 for large businesses

FDA actually calls large businesses “other businesses.” That is because the large businesses by definition are not small, very small, qualified facilities, or subject to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. All of these have compliance dates beyond September 2016.

Small businesses have a compliance date of September 2017 and are defined as having fewer than 500 employees. Therefore, “other businesses” have more than 500 employees. Very small businesses have a compliance date of September 2018 and are defined as having less than $1,000,000 in annual sales and holdings. By default, very small businesses have fewer than 500 employees. With only $1,000,000 in revenue, that makes sense that the business employs fewer than 500.

Very small businesses are qualified facilities. Having a designation as a qualified facility exempts the facility from the hazard analysis, preventive controls and supply chain requirements. This is a big deal. The business is still required to follow Good Manufacturing Practices, provide attestations in support of their status, provide evidence of oversight and compliance in their location, maintain records, and provide evidence of status annually. Even though a qualified facility is not required to conduct a hazard analysis and identify preventive controls for those hazards, the qualified facility is required to state how they are controlling hazards in their process. In other words, what is the qualified facility doing to make their product safe for the consumer? If a very small business believes they are a qualified facility, their status records must already now be in place.

Businesses subject to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) have a compliance date of September 2018. These grade A milk processors come into compliance after the next revision of the PMO is published. The PMO will include elements of preventive control requirements.

What are the foundation rules of FSMA? Here is a summary of them:

Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals
This is the animal food rule.
Who? Animal food manufacturers and their ingredient suppliers
When? Initial compliance date of September 2016
In the same way that food for human consumption must be made in a safe manner, the diverting of human food to animal food and the production of animal food must be done safely.

Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals
This is the import rule.
Who? Importers of ingredients or food for humans or animals
When? Initial compliance date of May 30, 2017
To see descriptions of who has later dates, go to this FDA document at https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm517545.htm.

Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption
This is the produce rule.
Who? Raw agricultural commodity farmers
When? Produce growers with more than $500,000 in annual sales must be compliant starting in November 2017. Small businesses with annual sales between $250,000 and $500,000 must be compliant November 2018. Very small businesses with annual sales between $25,000 and $250,000 must be compliant November 2019. Due to high risk, sprout growers must be compliant in November 2016, with small and very small sprout growers compliant in November 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Growers may have modified compliance dates for parts of the rule including water quality standards, testing and recordkeeping; labeling; or retention of records supporting eligibility for a qualified exemption. Many commodities are exempt from parts of the rule due to the nature of the crop.

Accreditation of Third-Party Certification Bodies To Conduct Food Safety Audits and To Issue Certifications
This is the audit rule.
Who? Third-party auditors
When? The rule was published November 2015. The Model Accreditation Standards when published will include FDA’s final recommendations on third-party auditor/certification body qualifications and incorporate requirements. Thereafter, auditors will be able to apply for FDA recognition. See the draft guidance for the Model Accreditation Standards at https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm455328.htm.

Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food
This is the transportation rule.
Who? Motor carriers, shippers, and receivers of human or animal food
When? Initial compliance date of April 2017
Motor carriers employing fewer than 500 persons and having less than $27.5 million in annual receipts must be compliant in April 2018.

Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration
This is the intentional adulteration rule.
Who? Human food manufacturers
When? This being the last of the rules was published in May 2016. The first compliance date is May 2019. Small businesses employing fewer than 500 employees must be compliant in May 2020.
The definition of the very small business is annual sales and holdings less than $10,000,000 and not $1,000,000 as defined in the preventive controls for human foods rule. The very small business must be compliant in May 2021.