The FSMA was signed into law by President Obama on 4 January 2011. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FSMA aims to ensure the safety of the US food supply by “shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.”
Speaking with DairyReporter.com at the International Dairy Show in Chicago last week, Steve Gray, marketing manager at DeLaval Cleaning Solutions, said that until now the US dairy processing sector has placed greater importance on quality and shelf life of their products.
This will change under the FSMA, he claimed.
“In the dairy industry, they’re pretty conscientious about the way they approach cleaning and sanitizing because they realize that they can have pathogen and or spoilage organisms ruin their products,” said Gray.
“But what they haven’t really focused on as much is what I call food safety. The greater focus has been on food quality, which is obviously important, but food safety is a much broader interest as you move your products abroad.”
Proactive versus reactive
The proposed FSMA regulations were made available for public comment in January 2013. The window for public comment had been scheduled to close on 16 September 2013, but has since been extended to 15 November 2013. Following this, the FDA will finalise the regulations and issue them.
In advance of the implementation, DeLaval, which provides products and technology for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting for food and beverage industries including dairy, is educating itself on the specifics of the new regulations.
“We’re trying to make ourselves more familiar with the nature of the rules and the challenges that the dairy industry is going to face,” said Gray. “Our responsibility is to help them become better educated about the elements of the act that have to do with safety."
“We’re trying to educate ourselves so we can be consultants to them – that is where the opportunity is for us.”
“Probably the largest change for dairies will be identifying the elements within their own process systems that can impact their final product from a safety standpoint. The dairy industry is going to have to focus on critical control points to a degree that they haven’t in the past,” said Gray.
“Proactive versus reactive – that’s the whole concept of the Food Safety Modernization Act.”
Meeting these soon-to-be implemented requirements will be essential not only on a domestically, but also on a global scale, according to Gray.
“As more and more dairy processors export items around the world - which is a growing part of their businesses - they’re going to have to become SQF and BRC certified, and certainly follow the requirements of the FSMA,” he said.
He added, however, that the biggest challenge regarding the implementation of the FSMA may actually lie with regulators.
“The US dairy industry has always been self-regulated, which is a little bit different to the other protein industries, including red meat and chicken, where you have US Department of Agriculture and Food Safety and Inspection Service oversight.”
“What’s going to be interesting is how that is going to be enforced. That is a big issue – do they have the money to actually enforce what will be required?”