The United States has one of the highest quality and safest food supplies in the world. This has been accomplished by a strong set of governmental regulations and enforcement and the ability for the average citizen to pay for this quality and safety. Our food supply is so safe that whenever this wall of safety is breached it becomes headline news all around the country. These breaches are addressed and corrected quickly in most cases. Foodborne illness is rare in the United States. This is not always the case in other parts of the world. But we are not satisfied with our present high level of performance. Continuous improvement in food safety is still the goal of the government, both at federal and state level. Food safety in the US is controlled by at least fifteen different federal agencies. The primary two are U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Supporting these is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC is mainly responsible for investigating and eliminating nationwide outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
The Food Safety Modernization Act and Intentional Contamination
Food manufacturers keep a staff of dedicated engineers and other staff to not only comply with but exceed the requirements of the many regulations. Nothing is worse for reputation, advertising, or sales than to be identified as the source of a foodborne outbreak. Recalls are expensive and can have long-term impact.
Historically, food borne diseases have been caused by improper handling, storage or accidental contamination. These are no longer the only sources of contamination that manufacturers need to be aware of or monitor. The FDA has a new rule which is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This rule is geared toward preventing intentional contamination of our food supply. This was the sixth rule proposed under FSMA, all of which have the common goal of ensuring the safety and security of our nation’s food and feed supply. The proposed rule is known as "Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration." Intentional contamination could be caused as part of a foreign attack using bioterrorism.
What this means for Food Manufacturing
FDA through the FSMA will require these companies to create a written food defense plan addressing significant vulnerabilities in their food-related operations. Instead of focusing on specific foods or hazards, this rule takes an approach targeting processes in a food manufacturing plant that might be vulnerable to adulteration. The potential of this type of contamination shouldn’t be taken lightly.
In the FSMA rule, areas where food adulteration is likely to occur are identified. Under this FSMA rule, facilities having any of the targeted areas will be required to complete their own vulnerability assessment. FSMA then requires the facility to identify procedures in the process in need of mitigation strategies and create a written food defense plan. Once in place, this rule holds the food manufacturing facility responsible for implementation of their strategies to reduce risk of contamination which has been caused intentionally.
At Optimation many of our major clients are food processing and food manufacturing facilities. We work with our clients to create monitoring, tracking and data logging systems for their processes. We can also help with the development of vulnerability assessments. Food safety is important to us, and we look forward to helping food manufacturers with innovative strategies and processes to eliminate intentional contamination