The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed in 2011, ten years ago. Before that, there was the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C) which was passed in 1938. It took almost 75 years to update our US food safety codes. So when FSMA was signed, it was a pretty big deal and lots of people at many different companies were (understandably) concerned about what this might mean.
I was working at a pest control company that specialized in food processing and food storage sites at this time. A lot of calls came in about what changes needed to happen in order to comply with the new standards. It did take years to get those new standards written and implemented, but today, the full act is in effect and companies have to comply. From a pest management standpoint, not a great deal changed. There was an increase in paperwork and a better focus on preventative controls, but most companies already had fairly robust pest management plans in place.
I remember taking a food safety class in graduate school as was astounded that there was no such thing as a “mandatory recall”. Food companies could issue voluntary recalls, but there was no governing body that could mandate one. If something was wrong that required a recall, it was likely in the food company's best interest to put out a recall, but it wasn’t compulsory. Now, under FSMA, government agencies have the ability to dictate a recall. There is a long list of reasons why a food might be recalled, but food-borne pathogens (often spread by pests) are a major one.
Another major change with the implementation of FSMA was a shift from critical control points to overall preventative controls. As one of my former colleagues used to say, “HARPC is HACCP on steroids.” The Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventative Controls (HARPC) asked companies to evaluate their risk, look at the science, and put preventative plans in place to stop foodborne illness outbreaks. From a pest management standpoint, this meant looking at all the ways to not only prevent pests from invading, but also looking at ways to find issues faster to prevent and limit infestations.
The FDA estimates that one in six people get sick from food-borne diseases every year. Pest can contribute to not only that, but consumer rejection (seriously, who wants “bugs” in their food?). FSMA shifted the focus from reacting to issues to a prevention strategy. For pest management, prevention is key to reducing pest issues and limiting their impact on customer satisfaction, safety, and costly recalls.
Does your food safety plan address insect issues? Are you trying to keep pests out of the food supply? Do you need someone who knows food safety rules and regulations? We can help with that!
Lagniappe - for the absolute best in food safety cartoons, visit here!