Tag Archives: hazards

FDA

FDA Releases Five FSMA Guidance Documents

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

Today the FDA issued five guidance documents related to FSMA with the goal of assisting food importers and producers meet provisions in the regulation.

The first two documents are related to the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) regulation. The FDA issued the draft guidance, Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals, along with a small entity compliance guide. The third draft guidance is related to whether a measure provides the same level of public health protection as the corresponding requirement in 21 CFR part 112 or the PC requirements in part 117 or 507 . “This draft guidance aims to provide a framework for determining the adequacy of a process, procedure, or other action intended to provide the same level of protection as those required under the FSMA regulations for produce and for human or animal food,” according to FDA.

The FDA also released a final chapter in the draft guidance related to FSMA requirements for hazard analysis and risk-based PCs for human food. The chapter is intended to assist food facilities in complying with the supply chain program requirements.

The fifth guidance is an announcement of the FDA’s policy to exercise enforcement discretion related to the FSVP rule regarding certain grain importers that bring the product into the United States as raw agricultural commodities. “This enforcement discretion is meant to better align the FSVP rule with the exemption for non-produce RACs under the PC rules,” stated FDA.

Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality
FST Soapbox

Color Coding Helps Brewers Button Up QA Procedures

By Adam Serfas
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Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality

The passage of FSMA sparked industry-wide tightening of food safety standards. Perhaps one industry that has been affected more than others is brewing. Prior to the passage of this sweeping legislation, brewers weren’t held to the same standards as other food manufacturers and food processors. The act’s new categorization for brewers as “food” means that the FDA now has some jurisdiction over the industry in conjunction with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

This increased scrutiny, particularly in the event of a recall, has caused many brewers to look to color-coding as a measure to tighten up their quality assurance protocols. Fortunately for brewers, there are many benefits to incorporating color-coding, making the process a worthwhile one.

Happy Inspectors

Perhaps the most immediate effect of incorporating color-coding in a facility is delighting any inspectors that may drop in. A color-coding plan is a documented method for evaluating potential hazards and implementing precautionary measures to preventing contamination—all things inspectors want to see. Failure to live up to these standards can result in follow up inspections and, in some cases, fines.

Proper Tool Usage

A color-coding plan indicates where and when a tool is to be used. While mistakes can still be made, a clear plan that is reflected in all tools and paired with adequate signage and training makes it much more likely that a tool will be used properly. Much of the equipment in a brewery is very expensive and can be easily damaged by using the wrong tool. For example, if an abrasive brush were to be used on a stainless steel tank, there can be irreparable damage.

Higher-Quality Tools

Tools that are color-coded are generally made at a food-grade, FDA-approved quality. This means they are much less likely to leave behind bristles, a potential contaminant you wouldn’t want finding its way into the product. Additionally, many breweries make use of caustics and acids followed by sanitizers in the cleaning process. A low-quality tool will degrade at a much higher rate as a result of coming into contact with these chemicals than a higher quality tool will. Simply put, higher quality tools last longer, saving you money in the long run.

Less Tool Wandering

A color-coding plan should indicate where a tool is used and where it is stored when it is not being used. When tools have this designated storage area they are much less likely to be carelessly misplaced. And in the event of a lost tool, it becomes much easier to recognize these tool gaps and replace as necessary sooner rather than later to ensure that the proper tool is always used for the task at hand.

Higher Efficiency

When protocols are in place for tool usage, time isn’t wasted finding the correct tool for the job. This may seem insignificant, but over time those lost minutes can add up.

Removal of Language Barriers

For facilities that employ foreign speakers, color-coding is extremely helpful in breaking down language barriers. A brewery production area can be a busy, fast-paced environment, so it is helpful to have a plan in place that is easily recognizable and understood by all employees.

It is however important to consider the fact that you may need to keep in mind the visibility of these colors for colorblind employees. It’s best to try to use high contrast colors in your plan.

Greater Traceability

Finally, in the unfortunate event of a recall, a color-coding plan helps add traceability potentially decreasing the amount of product that needs to be pulled from shelves. Certainly color-coding helps to prevent contamination issues that can cause a recall.

A well thought out color-coding plan that is carefully implemented can have numerous benefits in breweries both small and large. For questions related to drafting a color-coding plan from scratch or updating an existing plan, contacting a color-coding specialist is recommended.

USP Food Fraud Database

Why Include Food Fraud Records in Your Hazard Analysis?

By Karen Everstine
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USP Food Fraud Database

Food fraud is a recognized threat to the quality of food ingredients and finished food products. There are also instances where food fraud presents a safety risk to consumers, such as when perpetrators add hazardous substances to foods (e.g., melamine in milk, industrial dyes in spices, known allergens, etc.).

FSMA’s Preventive Controls Rules require food manufacturers to identify and evaluate all “known or reasonably foreseeable hazards” related to foods produced at their facilities to determine if any hazards require a preventive control. The rules apply both to adulterants that are unintentionally occurring and those that may be intentionally added for economically motivated or fraudulent purposes. The FDA HARPC Draft Guidance for Industry includes, in Appendix 1, tables of “Potential Hazards for Foods and Processes.” As noted during the recent GMA Science Forum, FDA investigators conducting Preventive Controls inspections are using Appendix 1 “extensively.”

The tables in Appendix 1 include 17 food categories and are presented in three series:

  • Information that you should consider for potential food-related biological hazards
  • Information that you should consider for potential food-related chemical hazards
  • Information that you should consider for potential process-related hazards

According to the FDA draft guidance, chemical hazards can include undeclared allergens, drug residues, heavy metals, industrial chemicals, mycotoxins/natural toxins, pesticides, unapproved colors and additives, and radiological hazards.

USP develops tools and resources that help ensure the quality and authenticity of food ingredients and, by extension, manufactured food products. More importantly, however, these same resources can help ensure the safety of food products by reducing the risk of fraudulent adulteration with hazardous substances.

Incidents for dairy ingredients, food fraud
Geographic Distribution of Incidents for Dairy Ingredients. Graphic courtesy of USP.

Data from food fraud records from sources such as USP’s Food Fraud Database (USP FFD) contain important information related to potential chemical hazards and should be incorporated into manufacturers’ hazard analyses. USP FFD currently has data directly related to the identification of six of the chemical hazards identified by FDA: Undeclared allergens, drug residues, heavy metals, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and unapproved colors and additives. The following are some examples of information found in food fraud records for these chemical hazards.

Undeclared allergens: In addition to the widely publicized incident of peanuts in cumin, peanut products can be fraudulently added to a variety of food ingredients, including ground hazelnuts, olive oils, ground almonds, and milk powder. There have also been reports of the presence of cow’s milk protein in coconut-based beverages.

Drug residues: Seafood and honey have repeatedly been fraudulently adulterated with antibiotics that are not permitted for use in foods. Recently, beef pet food adulterated with pentobarbital was recalled in the United States.

Heavy metals: Lead, often in the form of lead chromate or lead oxide which add color to spices, is a persistent problem in the industry, particularly with turmeric.

Industrial Chemicals: Industrial dyes have been associated with a variety of food products, including palm oil, chili powder, curry sauce, and soft drinks. Melamine was added to both milk and wheat gluten to fraudulently increase the apparent protein content and industrial grade soybean oil sold as food-grade oil caused the deaths of thousands of turkeys.

Pesticides: Fraud in organic labeling has been in the news recently. Also concerning is the detection of illegal pesticides in foods such as oregano due to fraudulent substitution with myrtle or olive leaves.

Unapproved colors/additives: Examples include undeclared sulfites in unrefined cane sugar and ginger, food dyes in wine, and tartrazine (Yellow No. 5) in tea powder.

Adulteration, chili powder, skim milk powder, olive oil
Time Series Plot of Records for Chili Powder (blue), Skim Milk Powder (green), and Olive Oil (orange)

Continue to page 2 below.

Minimizing Hazards and Fraud in Milk, IBM Research Partners with Cornell University

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Americans consume an estimated 600 pounds of milk and milk-based products annually, according to the USDA. In an effort to minimize the hazards in the milk supply and prevent food fraud, IBM Research and Cornell University are joining forces. Combining next-generation sequencing with bioinformatics, the research project will collect genetic data from the microbiome of raw milk samples in a real-world situation at the Cornell University dairy plant and farm in Ithaca, New York.

Specifically, IBM and Cornell will sequence and analyze the DNA and RNA of food microbiomes, which will serve as a raw milk baseline, to develop tools that monitor raw milk and detect abnormalities that could indicate safety hazards and potential fraud. The data collected may also be used to expand existing bioinformatics analytical tools used by the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, a project that was launched by IBM Research and Mars, Inc. at the beginning of 2015.

“As nature’s most perfect food, milk is an excellent model for studying the genetics of food. As a leader in genomics research, the Department of Food Science expects this research collaboration with IBM will lead to exciting opportunities to apply findings to multiple food products in locations worldwide.” – Martin Wiedmann, Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety, Cornell University.

“Characterizing what is ‘normal’ for a food ingredient can better allow the observation of when something goes awry,” said Geraud Dubois, director of the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, IBM Research – Almaden, in a press release. “Detecting unknown anomalies is a challenge in food safety and serious repercussions may arise due to contaminants that may never have been seen in the food supply chain before.”

Cornell University is the first academic institution to join the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain.

Emulate, FDA, organ chip

Are Organs-on-Chips the Next Pioneers in Food Safety?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Emulate, FDA, organ chip

FDA is evaluating the use of micro-engineered chips as a potential model for studying hazards in food. Last week the agency announced a multi-year cooperative R&D agreement (CRADA) with Emulate, Inc., a manufacturer of organ-on-chip technology that “emulates human biology. The company’s Human Emulation System, a platform that includes organ-chips, instrumentation and software, recreates the natural physiology of human tissues and organs with the intention of providing a “predictive model of human response to diseases, medicines, chemicals, and foods with greater precision and detail than other preclinical testing methods, such as cell culture or animal-based experimental testing,” according to the company’s press release.

“The flexible polymer organ-chips contain tiny channels lined with living human cells and are capable of reproducing blood and air flow just as in the human body. The chips are translucent, giving researchers a window into the inner workings of the organ being studied.” – Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., senior advisor for toxicology, CFSAN

In the agency’s blog, FDA Voice, Fitzpatrick states that the chip technology could shed light on how the body processes an ingredient in a supplement or how a toxin(s) affects cells. It could also one day lead to much less animal testing, if at all. The goal of the research, which will begin with a liver-chip, is to be able to predict how organs will respond to exposure to chemical hazards in foods, cosmetics and dietary supplements more precisely than cell culture or animal-based tests. In the future, other organ-chips may be used, including kidney, lung and intestine models.

Dr. Douglass Marshall, Chief Scientific Officer – Eurofins Microbiology Laboratories
Food Genomics

Microbiomes a Versatile Tool for FSMA Validation and Verification

By Douglas Marshall, Ph.D., Gregory Siragusa
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Dr. Douglass Marshall, Chief Scientific Officer – Eurofins Microbiology Laboratories

The use of genomics tools are valuable additions to companies seeking to meet and exceed validation and verification requirements for FSMA compliance (21 CFR 117.3). In this installment of Food Genomics, we present reasons why microbiome analyses are powerful tools for FSMA requirements currently and certainly in the future.

Recall in the first installment of Food Genomics we defined a microbiome as the community of microorganisms that inhabit a particular environment or sample. For example, a food plant’s microbiome includes all the microorganisms that colonize a plant’s surfaces and internal passages. This can be a targeted (amplicon sequencing-based) or a metagenome (whole shotgun metagenome-based) microbiome. Microbiome analysis can be carried out on processing plant environmental samples, raw ingredients, during shelf life or challenge studies, and in cases of overt spoilage.

As a refresher of FSMA requirements, here is a brief overview. Validation activities include obtaining and evaluating scientific and technical evidence that a control measure, combination of control measures, or the food safety plan as a whole, when properly implemented, is capable of effectively controlling the identified microbial hazards. In other words, can the food safety plan, when implemented, actually control the identified hazards? Verification activities include the application of methods, procedures, tests and other evaluations, in addition to monitoring, to determine whether a control measure or combination of control measures is or has been operating as intended, and to establish the validity of the food safety plan. Verification ensures that the controls in the food safety plan are actually being properly implemented in a way to control the hazards.

Validation establishes the scientific basis for food safety plan process preventive controls. Some examples include using scientific principles and data such as routine indicator microbiology, using expert opinions, conducting in-plant observations or tests, and challenging the process at the limits of its operating controls by conducting challenge studies. FSMA-required validation frequency first includes before the food safety plan is implemented (ideally), within the first 90 calendar days of production, or within a reasonable timeframe with written justification by the preventive controls qualified individual. Additional validation efforts must occur when a change in control measure(s) could impact efficacy or when reanalysis indicates the need.

FSMA requirements stipulate that validation is not required for food allergen preventive controls, sanitation preventive controls, supply-chain program, or recall plan effectiveness. Other preventive controls also may not require validation with written justification. Despite the lack of regulatory expectation, prudent processors may wish to validate these controls in the course of developing their food safety plan. For example, validating sanitation-related controls for pathogen and allergen controls of complex equipment and for how long a processing line can run between cleaning are obvious needs.

There are many routine verification activities expected of FSMA-compliant companies. For process verification, validation of effectiveness, checking equipment calibration, records review, and targeted sampling and testing are examples. Food allergen control verification includes label review and visual inspection of equipment; however, prudent manufacturers using equipment for both allergen-containing and allergen-free foods should consider targeted sampling and testing for allergens. Sanitation verification includes visual inspection of equipment, with environmental monitoring as needed for RTE foods exposed to the environment after processing and before packaging. Supply-chain verification should include second- and third-party audits and targeted sampling and testing. Additional verification activities include system verification, food safety plan reanalysis, third-party audits and internal audits.

Verification procedures should be designed to demonstrate that the food safety plan is consistently being implemented as written. Such procedures are required as appropriate to the food, facility and nature of the preventive control, and can include calibration of process monitoring and verification instruments, and targeted product and environmental monitoring testing.

FSMA

FDA Addresses Hazards Requiring Control in New Draft Guidance

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FSMA

Today FDA released a new draft guidance related to FSMA: Draft Guidance for Industry, Describing a Hazard That Needs Control in Documents Accompanying the Food as Required by Four Rules Implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) details the agency’s current thinking related to “disclosure statements made by an entity, in documents accompanying food, that certain hazards have not been controlled by that entity as required by certain provisions in four final rules”. These rules are the PC rules for human and animal food, the Produce rule and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program.

“This guidance provides our current thinking on how to describe the hazard under each of the four rules and which documents we consider to be “documents of the trade” for the purpose of the statements accompanying the food,” according to an FDA release.

The draft is available on the Federal Register and is open for comment 180 days after publication (October 31).

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

From HACCP to HARPC, and Integrating Pest Management

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

September 19, 2016 is a date that many of you probably had circled on your calendars. It marked the first date in which many food processing companies had to be in compliance with the FSMA preventive controls final rule.

It’s okay if you’re still revising your food safety plan. The regulations are so sweeping that some companies are still struggling to figure out if their plans are in compliance. At the heart of this law is a change in the philosophy of how we deal with contamination. Now, the focus is on preventing contamination rather than responding to it after it occurs.

This proactive approach to safety must be kept in mind when discussing how food safety plan requirements have changed. For many food manufacturing facilities, it means a change from HACCP to HARPC.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, should be more familiar to you. First developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s to provide safe food for astronauts in the U.S. space program, HACCP became the global standard for food safety in the 1980s, as large, multinational companies sought to ensure that their supply chains were safe.

HACCP evolved over the years into an effective, efficient and comprehensive food safety management approach. The system addresses food safety through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.

The seven principles of HACCP include:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis
  2. Identify critical control points
  3. Set critical limits
  4. Establish monitoring actions
  5. Determine corrective actions
  6. Develop verification procedures
  7. Institute a record-keeping system

How are HACCP and HARPC different?

Following the passage of FSMA, the FDA instituted a new set of food safety standards, known as Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls (HARPC).

HARPC shouldn’t be seen as a replacement of HACCP standards. Rather, it’s an evolution of them. The following are some key changes.

You Must Anticipate Potential Hazards. One of the big changes in moving to HARPC standards is that your food safety plan must identify any and all reasonably foreseeable food safety hazards and include risk-based preventive controls for them. This moves beyond HACCP’s critical control points and asks that food processors look at how to minimize risk from the second food enters their facility to the second it ships out.

This includes naturally occurring hazards as well as hazards that can be intentionally or unintentionally introduced to the facility. The potential hazards that have expanded under HARPC include:

  • Biological, chemical, physical and radiological hazards
  • Natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens and unapproved food and color additives
  • Naturally occurring hazards or unintentionally introduced hazards
  • Intentionally introduced hazards (including acts of terrorism)

You should review the potential hazards—both seen and unseen—that could impact your facility to determine the risks that you should analyze for your plan.

HARPC Applies to Almost All Food Processing Facilities. The HACCP standards generally did not apply to all food processors. HARPC, however, covers many more U.S. processors. There are six major exceptions, however.

  • Food companies under the exclusive jurisdiction of the USDA
  • Companies subject to the FDA’s new Standards for Produce Safety authorities
  • Facilities that are subject to and comply with FDA’s seafood and juice HACCP regulations
  • Low-acid and acidified canned food processors
  • Companies defined as “small” or “very small” businesses
  • Companies with a previous three-year average product value of less than $500,000

Do these changes mean that your existing food safety plan needs to be scrapped? Not at all. An existing HACCP plan can be modified with the help of a Preventive Control Qualified Individual (another new requirement) to comply with HARPC guidelines. This person needs to be intimately familiar with potential hazards and the risk-based preventive controls for them.

This may sound daunting at first, but moving to HARPC from HACCP will be an easier shift than starting from scratch. The key adjustments that you would need to focus on include identifying risk-based preventive controls for the hazards previously mentioned. Just remember, these hazards should be expanded to include both naturally occurring and unintentionally introduced hazards.

How Does Integrated Pest Management Fit into a Food Safety Plan?

Much like HARPC, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) focuses on being proactive. It emphasizes prevention, focusing on facility maintenance and sanitation, before considering chemical options for pest management.

An IPM plan is benchmarked with regular monitoring and analysis of effectiveness. This may seem cumbersome, but one shouldn’t overlook the value of documentation as a management tool. Collecting data and putting it in context with detailed analysis can be an effective way to prioritize your pest control efforts.

Detailed analysis accounts for things such as normal seasonal cycles, deficiencies in maintenance, exclusion, sanitation and harborages, just to name a few. This analysis can also help improve pest control efforts by prioritizing areas needing attention, especially when your staff is limited by time or resources.

Integrating IPM into your HARPC plan should include analyzing the risks of what could encourage pests to enter your facility, such as doors left open or incoming product shipments. Consider your pest control provider an expert source in how to assess all risks associated with pests and how to establish preventive controls for them.

Despite preventative efforts, unexpected pests will be inevitable. More emphasis will be placed on establishing action thresholds for different pests. This can be a problematic topic, because there are not scientific or broadly accepted threshold values for food processing pests.

Every facility, and often zones within facilities, will likely be different. Identify logical zones—ingredients, processing, packaging and warehousing—and sensible threshold values for each key pest in these zones. Furthermore, establish what the appropriate response should be at certain thresholds. The escalating responses to different levels of pest activity often include things such as automatic authority for certain limited types of pesticide application, more intensive monitoring and inspection, and, of course, higher management notifications, which might lead to more extensive measures.

IPM plans should be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure your program remains as effective as possible. Written food safety plans that follow the HARPC approach and comply with the FSMA rule should be reanalyzed whenever there is a significant change at the facility that might increase a known hazard or introduce a new one. Review the plan at least every three years, if no significant changes occur.

Even if your facility’s deadline for compliance with HARPC standards is a year or two away, now is the time to take a look at your plan and make sure you’re in compliance.

FST Soapbox

Intelligent Algorithms Shape Food Safety

By Steven Burton
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The North American food safety testing market is projected to reach $16 billion by 2020, according to a recent study by Markets and Markets. In just a few short years, it’s safe to say that purchasing a software solution to create and manage food safety programs will become ubiquitous, equivalent to that of employing any other software tool such as Microsoft Excel.

However, there is a broad range of capabilities for food safety software, and some solutions are much more complex than others. Many types of HACCP software operate as part of an ERP system, merely managing documents online under IT administration. But the technological capabilities of a food safety management system are endless in terms of value-driven innovation. Any competitive software on the market should go further, and be flexible and agile enough to meet and contain the challenges of a changing regulatory landscape and aggressive market space.

One of the ways food safety management can take things further is through the use of intelligent algorithms that can help food safety professionals get the most out of their software—and their HACCP plan. For example, instead of manually searching for all the physical, chemical and biological hazards (as well as radiological hazards under HARPC), intelligent algorithms can use data from other HACCP plans to suggest hazards. By comparing facility types, process flows, ingredients and more, a sophisticated algorithm can make smart suggestions that give food safety professionals a significant leg up, cutting down research time and providing a context of learning since it’s much easier to learn by example than starting from scratch. As such, suggestions can equip food safety professionals with the right mindset to discover potential hazards.

There are core benefits to searching for software technologies that have intelligent algorithms in place to analyze and retrieve data for those food businesses looking to get the most long-term value out of their vendor purchase.

Facilities with High-Risk Products and Complex Process Steps

High-risk foods are defined by the FDA as foods that “may contain pathogenic microorganisms and will normally support formation of toxins or growth of pathogenic microorganisms.” High-risk foods include raw meat, poultry, fish, dairy, fresh fruit, and vegetables, and processors working with these products handle more hazards and process steps in general than processors making low-risk foods. Instead of sorting through hundreds of hazards, facilities with high-risk products and complex process steps are able to skip much of the manual grunt work and simply select automatically generated hazards and process steps suggested to them at their fingertips.

Small Business Owners or Basic Food Safety Professionals

It’s common for small food businesses to put the bulk of their food safety duties on the shoulders of the owner. For many who have no previous background in food safety, there can be an unexpected and frustrating learning curve to overcome before you can pay the sweat equity required to develop a HACCP plan, and not for lack of trying. Similarly, junior food safety employees in new facilities can find established food safety practices challenging to navigate. Through intelligent algorithms, a software system can reinforce food safety hazards and process steps that might have been missed or forgotten by making them instantly available for retrieval and selection.

Giving Back Time

Recordkeeping is an essential component to an excellent food safety culture. In the grand scheme of things, managing resources to allocate time to high-level tasks that require human expertise on the production floor is a critical activity that most food safety professionals prioritize. Having more time to correct potential risk actions is crucial to ensuring the lowest possible likelihood of a recall. Smart software systems facilitate better employee time management practices so they can maximize their hours for meaningful, rather than menial, work. By taking back the time that would have been spent researching hazards, smart suggestions provide food safety professionals with a starting point that allows them to choose from a curated selection without delay.

Experimental Facilities with Changing Product Portfolio

Facilities that have a tendency to experiment with product development (i.e., food startups) are prone to using a significant amount of ingredients and formulas. When it comes time to present the right information for inspections and audits, this translates into a substantial amount of additional work in maintaining a HACCP plan. Intelligent algorithms enable a clear and organized focus, eliminating the minutiae surrounding information management of experimental product development.

New Regulations and International Compliance

Around the world new regulations surrounding acceptable food safety documentation are coming into effect; notably, FSMA even adds to the traditional hazards included under HACCP. For foreign exporters as well as American businesses, regulatory expectations for a more comprehensive approach to hazards and critical control points are higher than in the past. In the face of new regulatory demands, smart algorithms help food businesses lay out a common framework so that they can build internationally compliant programs

Extra Safeguard Check

Human error is inevitable. The beauty of technology is that it acts as a safeguard to ensure there are no glaring omissions that may have an impact on food safety duties. As a final once-over before sending in the HACCP plan, it makes good sense to have smart suggestions to cover all the bases.

Intelligent algorithms allow food safety professionals to do more with their time. By selecting from suggestions related to ingredients, materials, packing and process steps, a considerable amount of time is restored to the work day compared to the time-consuming exercise of manually assembling lists. The main benefit to a food safety software solution with intelligent algorithms is to reinforce the right mindset for listing physical, chemical and biological hazards for ingredients, material, processes and beyond. While smart suggestions should always be verified by a food safety professional familiar with the internal operations of a facility, for companies that aim to work smarter but not harder, smart algorithms are a key feature to keep in mind when researching software vendors.

Imports

FSMA’s FSVP: Clearing the Confusion of Importing Rules

By Charles Breen
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Imports

On November 27, 2015, the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Food Importers (FSVP Rule) published in the Federal Register. The most significant new element is that importers are now responsible for assuring that the food they import complies with FDA requirements. Instead of action against violative food, FDA is now equipped to take regulatory action against importers that fail to provide necessary assurance of food safety.

“Importer” is defined as: “the U.S. owner or consignee of an article of food that is being offered for import into the United States. If there is no U.S. owner or consignee of an article of food at the time of U.S. entry, the importer is the U.S. agent or representative of the foreign owner or consignee at the time of entry, as confirmed in a signed statement of consent to serve as the importer under the FSVP regulations.” This differs from the importer of record as defined by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as the person primarily responsible for paying any duties or an authorized agent acting on his behalf.

Under FSVP, an importer’s basic responsibilities are to:

  • Determine hazards reasonably likely to cause illness or injury
  • Evaluate the risk, using hazard analysis
  • Evaluate the foreign supplier’s performance
  • Perform supplier verification activities

Determining hazards and evaluating risk parallel the preventive control rules for human food (PCHF) and animal food (PCAF). Evaluation of a foreign supplier’s food safety performance and conducting verification activities are substantially aligned with supply-chain verification in 21 CFR 117 Subpart F (PCHF) and 21 CFR 507 Subpart E (PCAF). The importer is responsible for assuring compliance with FDA standards and requirements.

Deciding what parts of FSVP are applicable to each importer’s operation requires a comparison between what the importer does, and the exemptions, exceptions and modified requirements offered in the rule. These depend on what is imported, the food safety system in country of origin, the size of the importer, and the size of the foreign supplier. FDA delivered on its promise of flexibility, but deciding what applies requires some analysis.

If a food importer meets the definition of importer and does not fall into an exempted category or qualify for exceptions or modifications, then some or all of the FSVP rule applies to them. FDA estimates that about 55,000 importers will be covered by FSVP or some portion of it.

Who Is an Importer?

The U.S. owner or consignee of an article of food that is being offered for import into the United States is the importer. If there is no U.S. owner or consignee of an article of food at the time of U.S. entry, the U.S. agent or representative of the foreign owner or consignee at the time of entry is the importer.

All importers must provide an identification number for each entry line of food that the importer brings into the country. FDA will be issuing more guidance on what it considers “an acceptable identification number.”  The agency is not mandating that each facility use a DUNS number, but is has ruled out other suggestions for the unique identification number that is required.

Exemptions to FSVP

FSVP does not apply to the following foods:

  • Fish and fishery products (in compliance seafood HACCP in 21 CRF 123)
  • Juice (in compliance with juice HACCP in 21 CFR 120)
  • Food for research or evaluation
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Meat, poultry, and egg products regulated by USDA
  • Food imported for personal consumption,
  • Food that is transshipped through the United States
  • Food that is imported for processing and later export
  • U.S. food that is exported and returned without further manufacturing or processing in a foreign country (U.S. foods returned)

Partial exemption for import of low-acid canned foods (LACF). LACF are exempt from FSVP with respect to microbiological hazards for that food. To be exempt, the importer must verify and document that the food was produced in accordance with LACF requirements (21 CFR part 113). Other hazards not controlled by the LACF rule, if any, must be documented as controlled under FSVP.

Modified Requirements

Modified requirements for a receiving facility in compliance with the PCHF or PCAF rules that imports food:

  • If the process used controls the hazards of the imported food, the facility is considered in compliance with most of the FSVP rule.
  • If the food does not have any identified hazards requiring control, then the facility is considered in compliance with most of the FSVP rule.
  • If the facility has implemented a supply-chain program for the food in compliance with either PCHF or PCAF requirements, the facility is considered to be in compliance with most of the FSVP rule.

Receiving facilities must also accurately identify themselves to FDA for each entry line of food being imported.

Modified requirements for imported dietary supplements manufactured in compliance with CGMP requirements in 21 CFR part 111:

The importer must accurately identify itself to FDA for each entry line of dietary supplement or dietary ingredient being imported.

Modified requirements for very small importers:

Defined as less than $1 million in sales of human food a year, or less than $2.5 million in sales of animal food per year, very small importers would not have to conduct hazard analyses and would be able to verify their foreign suppliers by obtaining written assurances of compliance from those facilities.

Modified requirements for imports from small suppliers (i.e., qualified facilities under PCHF or PCAF, and some small farms not covered farms under the produce safety standards, and some small egg producers):

The importer must obtain written assurance before importing the food, and at least every two years after, that the foreign supplier is producing the food in compliance with applicable FDA food safety regulations or the laws and regulations of a country whose food safety system FDA has officially recognized as comparable or determined to be equivalent to that of the United States.

Modified requirements for food imported from a country with an officially recognized or equivalent food safety system:

Importers must determine that the supplier is in compliance with FDA requirements, or that the supplier is in compliance with food safety regulations or relevant laws in the country that FDA recognizes as equivalent.

At present, only New Zealand is officially recognized as comparable to the United States. FDA is in the process of auditing and evaluating audit results for mutual recognition with additional countries. The next countries to be recognized will most likely be Australia and Canada.

One final note: FSVP requires coverage of food contact surfaces, such as packaging. Manufacturers of food contact surfaces are not required to register with FDA. PCHF and PCAF rules are limited to those facilities required to register. The language requiring FSVP makes no exception for food contact surfaces.