GMA recently sent a letter to Congress calling for food safety reforms including granting the FDA mandatory recall authority. It also asked that a national standard be imposed on higher-risk fruits and vegetables.
“Most people agree that regulations on paper don’t necessarily result in compliance,” states Henry at GMA. “Assuring a safe product is conveyed to the consuming public can only be achieved through the proper execution throughout the supply chain, including the responsibility of regulators in tandem with the industry.”
Going forward, companies will be looking upstream to take a closer look at the processes being employed by suppliers to them of finished products, says Henry. “Manufacturers will learn from this how they can enhance their process of approving their suppliers and verifying the quality and integrity of the products they receive.”
Munyon at AIB says the industry will implement improvements, enhancements and program reviews, cautioning companies to honor the principles laid out over years of effort by so many companies in the industry.
Experts in the industry believe food companies should be required to have a risk-based food safety plan. Hollingsworth at FMI notes that the organization’s SQF standard mandates this.
“We think if this is something we as an industry support, there is no reason the government shouldn’t say everyone should have such a plan,” says Hollingsworth. “Whether it takes legislation or regulations to get such things as food safety plans and mandatory recall authority in place to make our food supply as safe as it can be, then we will support those ideas.”
Checklist For Assuring Food Safety
Minimizing the safe delivery of food all along the food supply chain can be achieved by following some simple suggestions from industry experts.
- Establish an environment within your supply chain of cooperation and partnership, with an eye to operating with integrity and full disclosure;
- Know your suppliers and understand what their best practices are for food safety; work with suppliers to verify the quality and integrity of the products they supply to you;
- Know the risk profile of the products you are purchasing from suppliers; ensure those risks are being monitored by one element or another of your risk-based food safety program;
- Ask yourself where in your supply chain your products might be at risk;
- Establish a list of best practices with the help of industry experts;
- Establish a food safety plan that lays out the potential points of hazard in your facility and how you would correct those; keep records of these remedial activities;
- Push for transparency and reportable results of audits throughout the industry;
- Push for all food manufacturing facilities to establish HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) programs;
- Push for testing protocols of facility environments and finished samples—and for these test results to be completely transparent and reportable. —A.T.