With the August 31 deadline for the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule only months away, careful attention must be paid to training, metrics and collaboration between larger and smaller players to prepare for implementation.
Training surrounds all aspects of a food safety plan, from understanding validation and verification to proper recordkeeping. “Regardless of what happens, training is critical and imperative,” said Donna Garren, Ph.D., American Frozen Food Institute, at the Food Safety Summit last week in Baltimore. “FDA is measuring food safety culture in an operation, and training must be ongoing.” Garren pointed to the FDA-funded Food Safety Preventive Control Alliance (FSPCA), which was established to develop standardized curriculum and help companies, especially those small and mid-sized, with training programs to meet requirements of the preventive controls regulation. The FSPCA curriculum is fairly broad and includes content that addresses an overview of food safety plans and GMPs, preventive controls related to allergens, sanitation, and suppliers, recall plans and record-keeping procedures. FSPCA has planned its pilot sessions for April, May and June of this year, with a train-the-trainer course planned for the fall.
Formed in January, the FSMA training workgroup has been working to develop training curriculum specifically for regulators on how to evaluate a facility against the preventive controls requirements. According to Priya Rathnam, supervisory consumer safety officer, Division of Enforcement/Office of Compliance at CFSAN/FDA, the agency plans to take a staggered approach to training based on deadlines, beginning with larger companies, as it is not practical to train all safety staff at once.
FDA’s Preventive Controls Phase 2 Workgroup is developing a metrics plan to measure progress (specifically measures that directly tie in with public health outcomes) and track trends, making adjustments as necessary. The agency plans to issue a guidance document to help industry and food and feed safety staff identify significant hazards and implement preventive control strategies. An internal technical assistance network is also planned to assist in consistent implementation in the field.
Start the journey now
While many in the industry may suffer from “FSMA fatigue”, discussing the implications of FSMA day in and day out, a lot of education and outreach still remains. Not everyone within an organization is aware of the intricacies of the regulation. “[We] need to make sure others have the same level of insight that we do,” said Tim Jackson, Ph.D., director of food safety at Nestlé North America. In addition, the bigger industry players need to work with smaller suppliers and manufacturers that don’t have the resources.
When developing an implementation approach, a company should standardize an internal approach now, rather than wait until the rule comes out in August. This begins with establishing a FSMA team. Jackson advises that this specialized team perform a detailed review of the preventive controls rule requirements and conduct a face-to-face workshop to confirm a rollout strategy and action plan. “We’re looking at our own HACCP plan,” Jackson says of Nestle, adding that they are reviewing validation of control measures and the company’s documentation system, challenging whether it’s “good enough,” and enhancing its early warning system.