January 4 marked the 3 year anniversary of the signing of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Here is the grand moment for anyone wishing to relive it.
At the time it was touted as the most sweeping legislative change since the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. So, 3 years later, has it been? Anyone conducting business differently? The past three years have been a series of missteps, lawsuits and delays that highlight the fallacy that a federal bureaucracy can be successful in applying science based solutions to corporate America.
I have spoken here many times, and probably will again, of the vast difference between FDA and USDA inspection techniques. As a transplant from USDA to FDA manufacturing I was shocked at the lack of understanding of food regulations by the manufacturing facilities and very disappointed in the inherit fear that most persons in these plants have of government officials. During my tenure with USDA inspectors I genuinely respected and enjoyed most of these professionals and found working with them for common goals to be beneficial for both the agency and my plants. Isn’t this what the government wants, a friendly, respectful relationship with industry? FDA is viewed must more like the IRS – don’t tell them anything and fear their very presence. How does this benefit anyone?
The delay in FSMA implementation is simply heaping wood onto an already burning fire of mistrust and fear by those who are regulated. The paperwork alone is enough to make most smaller producers fear missteps. Larger organizations are working to ensure they comply with little understood, vague programs that have yet to be explained fully.
The more time passes, the less likely these programs will have tangible results on the safety of the foods we eat. This is truly a shame. The United States of America has the safest food supply in the world, but there is room for improvement. Maybe if we could all agree with that statement we could, as a country, move to the next level of safety.