Nut & Agricultural Products Section
Banu Sinar, Setton International Foods
The Nut & Ag Section is the section within AFI that likely will be impacted more by one component of the Food Safety Modernization Act than other sections – the continuing guarantee requirement. Importers who bring in a product that has not been treated for a particular potential hazard (ex: salmonella) because they are selling it to another entity that will further process the product with a step that should eliminate the hazard (ex: roasting nuts) will have to notify their buyers that the hazard hasn’t been addressed and obtain an (at least) annual written assurance from those buyers that they are continually addressing that hazard.
This partial exemption from the Foreign Supplier Verification Program rule (not addressing the hazard because it will be addressed by another entity) and the need for the notifications to and from customers are two areas causing a lot of confusion.
Some importers of nuts may wrongly assume that because those nuts will be sold to roasters, they do not have to do anything with regard to the FSVP requirements. That’s not the case. Importers must still take steps to ensure the food they are importing is safe and meets U.S. regulations.
The notifications are an example of how communication along the supply chain will change as FSMA is implemented. In this situation, importers who may have been doing business for many years with a customer are now going to need a guarantee the customer may not even be aware is needed. Then, on an ongoing basis, these guarantees will have to continue. The good news is that there’s been a two-year delay on this requirement, so it won’t go into effect until 2019.
It still points to another significant issue with FSMA – communication. For example, some people won’t know about the notification and guarantee requirement. Others won’t know about the extension. Still others won’t care that the extension is in place and will want to proceed as if it is in place. Finally, some just won’t care. All of these scenarios create different communication needs. Some may even lead to a decision to discontinue working with certain customers.
It’s another example of where knowledge is power. Importers who have taken the time to understand what FSMA is all about and learn what’s called for in the FSVP rule will be in a better position to communicate with their suppliers, customers and others they deal with, such as Customs brokers and shipping companies. They’ll know when someone is asking for more than what’s required or when someone is putting them at risk by not doing enough to comply with the regulations.
AFI members are in a better position than most because we’ve received information about FSMA since it was introduced as a bill under consideration years ago. We had our say and saw what changes were made as the bill progressed through Congress and then was signed into law. We then had a chance to give more input as FDA went through the rule-making process and once the regulations became final, had access to ongoing information from the association on how to comply – including a 60-page guide written specifically for importers and another version written specifically for our foreign members shipping to the U.S.
Many of us have also taken advantage of the opportunity to attend AFI-sponsored courses related to FSMA – one course covering the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule and the other covering the FSVP rule.
AFI has also helped us through AFI President Bob Bauer’s many presentations over the past several years at various events throughout the world in which he outlined for suppliers what steps they needed to take to comply with FSMA.
It all points clearly to the value of belonging to an association, particularly AFI. AFI is focused on our products and on our industry. It works with other trade associations on common interests but also drills down to address issues from our perspective. Active participation by me and others at Setton over the years has proven to be very beneficial to the company. I encourage employees at other member companies to get the most of your firm’s membership by attending AFI events and I encourage those reading this with companies that are not yet AFI members to join the association soon.