48 million people are sickened each year by foodborne pathogens. 3,000 are killed each year according to the CDC. For the non-Mathletes, that’s 1-in-6.44 The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed in 2011 was supposed to change all that. With the FSMA, for the first time, the U.S. FDA is authorized to help prevent rather than simply respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness. But 4 years later, changes are still a work in progress.
Why the FSMA?
The Food Safety Modernization Act, the biggest food-safety overhaul since 1938, came in response to a 46-state outbreak tied to salmonella at a Georgia peanut plant in 2008. Nine people died, and every year since, thousands have died from food-borne illnesses.44.
Will It Work?
The new law makes hundreds of changes. But in almost all cases, it still leaves it up to companies to decide whether they need to test the food they make for bacteria before they put it on trucks and sell it. Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner, and many others say the bill, even after all these years, won’t be enough if Congress doesn’t provide the funding the FDA has said it needs.
Way Ahead of the FDA
As usual, the industry seems to be ahead of the government. Many leading companies have undertaken proactive approaches to food safety standards that surpass the FSMA regulatory changes (even if they get implemented). 18.7 million pounds of foods were recalled by the FDA, (the cost of which is almost incalculable). But more important than wasted food product is the impact on a brand’s reputation and the potential loss of shelf space if a product is recalled. This is why most company’s testing standards are more stringent than the government will require.
For example, the damage after a 2009 salmonella outbreak in peanut butter cost U.S. producers an estimated $1 billion, according to “Capturing Recall Costs,” a report from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Though the recalled products came from a single Georgia processing plant, a lingering 25% nationwide sales drop in peanut butter resulted as spooked shoppers skipped PB&Js and reached for alternatives, noted The New York Times.44
The FDA has until Aug. 15 to finalize the rules governing hazards within plants like Blue Bell’s, with six other rules coming in quick succession.
Food Safety Government Liaisons
If you need assistance in working with the government when it comes to Food Safety, please contact Cansler Consulting today for a free assessment on how we can help your company.