Food safety changes
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Sweeping changes in federal laws are creating challenges and opportunities for the global food industry, according to a leading food-safety expert.
Physician and microbiologist David Acheson outlined new and pending Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules to conferees at the Food Microbiology Symposium Oct. 16 in Atwood Memorial Center.
The top task for food companies is to protect their brands by investing in cost-effective safety and quality measures, Acheson said.
"Quality and safety will carry the day," he told food-focused technologists, quality assurance professionals, laboratory technicians and others gathered in Atwood Ballroom. "Focus on prevention, prevention, prevention."
Acheson, a partner at Leavitt Partners, a Washington-based healthcare consultancy, is a former FDA associate commissioner for foods. He rose to prominence in the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli investigation, in which four children died and hundreds got sick eating contaminated hamburgers at restaurant locations in the Pacific Northwest.
Minnesota is home to three (General Mills, Cargill and Hormel) of the top 20 food-and-beverage companies in Canada and the U.S., according to foodprocessing.com. Another five Minnesota food companies are found among the top 75. In addition, numerous non-Minnesota companies, such as Kraft Foods and ConAgra, have major facilities in the nation's sixth most important agricultural state.
Domestic food companies must control risk in their foreign supply chains and exporters across the globe must adapt to America's new food-safety regime, Acheson said.
Rules tied to the 2011 Food Safety Mondernization Act will shift the food-safety burden from federal port inspections to the importers themselves, he said.
Third-parties will be eligible to audit and certify importers on behalf of the FDA. This, said Acheson, is a business oportunity for firms willing to deliver technology and education services.
Imports account for 15 percent of the U.S. food supply, including more than 75 percent of seafood and 60 percent of fresh produce consumed in the U.S, according to the USDA.
Acheson said the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping overhaul of food-safety regulations since the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. FSMA was a bipartisan measure that enjoyed broad support among consumers, regulators and business communities, he said.
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