FDA Access to Records Under FSMA

By Michael Biros
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What are the latest updates with FSMA and how has FDA’s access to records changed? Dr. David Acheson of The Acheson Group gives us the latest.

When it comes to latest updates regarding FSMA, the comment period on the proposed sanitary transportation rule has been extended to July 30, 2014.

What does FSMA change in terms of FDA access to records?

Before FSMA, FDA needed reasonable proof that a food would be adulterated and a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals (SAHCODHA) in order to access records.

Now, FDA needs reasonable probability that the use or exposure to a food, or any other articles of food that FDA believes is likely to be affected in a similar manner, would cause serious adverse health consequences. What FDA considers to be a reasonable probability will be determined on a case-by-case basis. These changes significantly expand the scope of what FDA can look at and lowers the threshold for records access.

Does FDA need to issue a formal request?

Formerly, FDA needed to invoke the Bioterrorism Act in order to gain access to records. This was a cumbersome process that required strict criteria to be met.

Currently under FSMA, FDA must provide written notice of what they are asking for. This documentation will be delivered by a credentialed FDA official.

Generally, access to records must be given as quickly as possible within 24 hours of the request. The records do not need to be in any particular format. Electronic records are still considered on-site records so long as they can be accessed from within the facility.

What can FDA ask for?

FDA has produced guidance documents that lists what they can ask for. FDA can request access to manufacturing records, ingredients receipt records, product distribution records, product inventory records, test records, recall records, reportable food records, customer distribution lists, and complaint/adverse event records.

There are some exceptions. FDA cannot request personnel records, financial records, recipes, some records from farms, and some records from restaurants.

How will FDA maintain the confidentiality of any protected information in records it obtains?

While some of these records may be accessible through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), FDA is responsible to protect and redact commercial confidential information in accordance with their own requirements. However, some of this sensitive information can be shared with other federal, state, local, and foreign authorities.

For more information, click here to see archived FSMA Fridays webinars, organized by SafetyChain Software

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