The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of the food safety laws in over 70 years. The FSMA was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. FSMA aims to protect public health by focusing on prevention of, rather than reaction to, food safety issues. FSMA is administered through the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Burden of Foodborne Illness
While it is true that the United States does have a very safe food supply, the burden of foodborne illness is still a major problem. The CDC estimates that 1 in 6 (48 million) Americans are affected by foodborne illness each year. Along with the 48 million illnesses there are 125,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually. The goal of FSMA is to reduce the public health burden by preventing foodborne illness outbreaks.
Almost 20% of the food consumed in the United States is imported. To address this growing trend, FSMA has provisions to ensure imported food is produced under food safety standards that are equivalent to those in the United States.
Components of FSMA
FSMA is composed of 7 individual rules that address different aspects of food safety. The FDA has published factsheets that serve as a brief overview of each rule.
- Preventive Controls for Human Food: Requires that food facilities have safety plans that set forth how they will identify and control food safety hazards. For facilities that require a written food safety plan, a preventive controls qualified individual (PCQI) must be included in the development of the food safety management system.
- Preventive Controls for Food for Animals: Establishes Current Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls for food for animals.
- Standards for Produce Safety: Establishes science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms
- Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals: Importers will be required to verify that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that provides the same level of public health protection as that required of U.S. food producers.
- Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration: Requires domestic and foreign facilities to address vulnerable processes in their operations to prevent acts intended to cause large-scale public harm.
- Sanitary Transport of Human and Animal Food: Requires those who transport food to use sanitary practices to ensure the safety of food.
- Accredited Third-Party Certification: Establishes a program for the accreditation of third-party auditors to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications of foreign facilities producing food for humans or animals.