PMMI Corner: Taking a proactive approach to food safety
It’s hard to believe, but it was only January of last year that President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of food safety law in more than 70 years. What makes FSMA different from its forerunners is its aim to ensure the food supply is safe by focusing on preventing contamination, rather than on responding to it.
Since FSMA’s enactment, we’ve seen brand owners and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) try to get a handle on the implications the regulations will have on their operations in both the short- and long-term. While many details are still being finalized, we know one thing for sure: FSMA will bring big changes that will affect food manufacturers and suppliers worldwide.
Following are three major themes of FSMA that should be on your radar:
In the past, occasional plant inspections and sample testing served as the primary means to control food safety. However, this approach only provides a snapshot of conditions during the specific inspection period. Today’s more modern approaches, such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), provide system tools for ongoing analysis and are superior to end product testing.
A HACCP process is designed to monitor food production on an ongoing basis and evaluates potential hazards in a production process. The end goal is a system designed to control or eliminate risk before a contamination issue can arise.
2. Proactive Design
Rather than waiting for food safety mandates to be put in place, suppliers can take proactive steps to engineer a new generation of equipment.
PMMI member Triangle Package Machinery Co. (www.trianglepackage.com) is doing just that. After consulting with USDA and independent 3A inspectors, the company designed potential food safety hazards out of its machinery. The company’s X-Series VFFS baggers utilize a stainless steel frame that is electropolished to reduce crevices where contaminants can collect. Elimination of aluminum components, such as film cages or film rollers further enhances safety. Other manufacturers, such as ADCO (www.adcomfg.com), are working to design away flat surfaces where water can pool.
3. Leverage Industry Resources
While the prospect of redesigning both machinery and processes can be daunting, manufacturers can turn to a variety of industry organizations and resources for insight and advice. Recently, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in cooperation with Institute for Food Safety and Health, created the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) to develop training courses and materials on preventing food contamination. Industry professionals can also turn to private third-party auditors and accredited laboratories for counsel. This fall’s PACK EXPO International 2012 (October 28-31 in Chicago, IL) will also be a critical food safety resource, with features including the Food Safety Summit Resource Center to address attendee concerns and questions about compliance.
At the end of the day, the best way to cope with the changes associated with FSMA will be for brand owners and packaging and processing OEMs to work in cooperation in a “seamless technical community.”
The stronger relationship will provide brand owners access to additional resources and ensure implementation and compliance goes smoothly, as it allows OEMs to address customer-specific food safety challenges.
Jeff Barach, Ph.D., is FSMA Consultant to PMMI
Learn more about PMMI and the PACK EXPO trade shows at PMMI.org and Packexpo.com.