United States preventive rule raises the bar for food safety compliance

August 9, 2016

A recent spate of food recalls has emphasised the unique integrity and compliance risks faced by companies operating in the food industry. These businesses are often in a precarious position because the goods and services they offer could pose dangers to the health of customers, which could in turn make them and their third parties liable for prosecution. It is therefore vital that these types of organisations have preventive controls in place to effectively manage these integrity and compliance risks.

A recent spate of food recalls has emphasised the unique integrity risks faced by companies operating in the food industry. These businesses are often in a precarious position because the goods and services they offer could pose dangers to a client’s health, which could in turn make them and their third parties liable for prosecution. It is therefore vital that these types of organisations have preventive controls in place to effectively manage these integrity and compliance risks. 

Such a policy has now been officially endorsed by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has introduced a preventive controls rule for human food. Part of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, the ruling mandates that registered companies involved in the manufacturing, processing and distribution of human food items take the following steps when it comes to human food:

  • Maintain a food safety plan;
  • Analyse where food safety hazards exist in operations; and
  • Deal with those hazards by establishing preventive controls

Large corporations have until 16 September to comply, while SMEs must meet these obligations by September 2017 and smaller companies by a year after that, according to Food Safety News.

In addition to the above, companies must also have a recall plan in place just in case incidents of contamination or other compliance violations occur. Companies’ preventive controls need to be continuously monitored and reanalysed at least once every three years, according to the ruling. Organisations are also encouraged to collaborate with the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance for further training and assistance.

Additionally, the FDA will provide support by making documents and guides available. It has also established the Food Safety Technical Assistance Network as a hub for industry facts and information.

Compliance officers need to remain up-to-date with the very latest trends and developments from government bodies and regulatory authorities. Once changes are announced, it is up to compliance teams to evaluate existing systems and make any necessary chances in order to comply with new regulations.

Health and safety risks among suppliers are normally managed through:

  • checking to see if the supplier has had previous issues with health and safety compliance or has been prosecuted by any authority in any country
  • checking relevant screening databases
  • checking certifications of the suppliers against recognised certification agencies
  • conducting on-the-ground health and safety audits.
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