Bob Bauer, AFI
May 30, 2017 is one of the most important dates in the 111-year history of the Association of Food Industries. It’s the effective date of the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule within the Food Safety Modernization Act. As the trade association for the U.S. food import industry, the implementation date of a regulation that changes the paradigm of the government’s approach to monitoring imported foods is a day to be remembered.
Perhaps the major theme behind FSMA is a shift from inspecting foods after production/import to requiring manufacturers and importers to have systems in place that come as close to a guarantee as possible that the food meets U.S. food safety requirements. FDA and state agencies will still conduct on-site inspections of domestic and foreign food production facilities but those will entail a greater emphasis on records and inspections of importers not producing food will be 100-percent records based.
Given the impact of FSMA, the articles in this publication are focused there. In fact, much of AFI’s work over the past several years has been FSMA-related. I was honored to be asked to serve on the task force that designed the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance’s training program on the Foreign Supplier Verification Program. That’s involved a lot of time over the past year but it’s been a great benefit to AFI and its members – and the food import industry as a whole. Participating on that task force has helped make me among the most knowledgeable people in the food industry with regard to the FSVP rule.
The course was ready in February and AFI immediately began scheduling sessions. Six were scheduled and/or held before this publication went to press and we’ll continue to add more as long as the demand is there. Whether your company is subject to the FSVP rule, the Preventive Control for Human Food rule or any of the other FSMA rules, the FSPCA courses are the best way to ensure your company has someone on staff with the knowledge needed to comply with the regulations.
Some will balk at the idea of taking the courses, saying they’ve been in the industry for years, haven’t had problems, don’t have time to take a course and will make changes if an FDA inspection creates issues or customers demand proof of compliance. I’m here to tell you that some of the people asking the most and best questions during the courses are fellow industry veterans.
FSMA is huge. It will force changes in relationships with suppliers, customers, brokers and other service providers. It can’t be taken lightly. For example, if an FDA inspector requests to see your company’s FSVP records, you must produce them within 24 hours.
Here’s another tidbit to consider: Every line item within a Customs entry must list an FSVP importer. The definition of an FSVP importer is different than the definition of the Customs Importer of Record. To complicate things more, in many instances there will be more than one entity that will meet the definition of an FSVP importer.
Many in the industry have put off a deep dive into FSMA research because of the daily demands of running their businesses. It’s time to find that time and protect that business you’ve worked so hard to build. Failure to do so puts you one knock on the door from an FDA inspector away from serious trouble, particularly if that knock comes as a result of a food safety issue with one of your products.
Of course, there’s the customer side of the equation as well. Most if not all of your customers will need to comply with FSMA as well and a key part of compliance is a supply chain management program through which they can prove the food they are producing/selling meets FSMA and other FDA requirements. So it’s much more likely requests for documentation are going to come from your customers than from FDA. So leaving things to chance and not making and taking the time to truly understand and comply with FSMA is going to hit you in the pocketbook.
The general FSVP compliance date is May 30, 2017. Though there are some extensions for smaller companies, there’s still work all importers need to do by May 30. If you’re reading this after May 30 and haven’t started moving toward FSVP compliance yet, act quickly and begin the process of working toward compliance so you can lessen your exposure to liability. If whenever you’re reading this you’ve only paid passing attention to FSVP, take the course. The curriculum is that same, so whether it’s offered by AFI or someone else, I can assure you it gives you the information you need to keep FDA and your customers happy.