September 19, 2016 marks the compliance day when larger facilities making human food must meet preventive controls and Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements (CGMPs) and larger animal food facilities must meet CGMPs.
So what should one expect? FDA issued two letters today. To summarize from the many words in those documents:
At this point, the FDA is still learning so "the FDA’s primary focus will continue to be on education, training and technical assistance to help companies comply with the new requirements."
Does your Food Safety Plan have to be perfect at this point - "Many businesses of that size already have a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) program; we don’t expect them to need to make many changes to come into compliance. Aspects of the CGMP and preventive controls rules are similar to HACCP, a food safety system that started with industry."
But FDA will still evaluate the facility in order to make safe products. "The best thing that people in the food industry can do is take the measures required by the new rules – not just the letter of the law but what it represents in terms of transforming the food safety system. They should look at the big picture, at areas in which they could be vulnerable and proactively take action. Promptly responding to problems, even if they aren’t yet violations, can prevent them from getting to the point at which there is a concern about the safety of the food."
"In addition, facilities should set up a thorough system for documenting what they do."
FDA is still learning as well.
FDA News Release
What to Expect Now that the First Big FSMA Compliance Dates Are Here
Questions and Answers with Joann Givens
The first major compliance dates have arrived for the preventive controls rules for human and animal food under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Some members of the food industry have expressed concern and uncertainty about enforcement measures that may accompany September 19, 2016. That’s the date when larger businesses must comply with certain new standards. Human food facilities must meet preventive controls and Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements (CGMPs); animal food facilities must meet CGMPs. (The larger animal food businesses have an additional year to meet the preventive controls standards.)
Joann Givens, co-chair of the FSMA Operations Team Steering Committee and director of FDA’s Food and Feed Program in the Office of Regulatory Affairs, addresses questions that have been raised about what the next few months will look like for human food facilities required to comply with the CGMP and preventive controls requirements and animal food facilities required to comply with the CGMP requirements.
What happens next in terms of FDA enforcement of these new standards?
We know that this is new territory for food companies; it’s new territory for us too. For years we’ve been talking about the FSMA rulemakings and our implementation plans. Now, an important compliance date is here for some companies. As we enter this new chapter, the FDA’s primary focus will continue to be on education, training and technical assistance to help companies comply with the new requirements.
A top priority for FDA is providing the framework for industry's implementation of preventive controls and CGMP requirements. We recently issued draft guidance documents that provide more detail on how to comply with the new standards, and there are more guidances to come, about two dozen planned over the next few years. We intend to continue this dialogue and collaboration with regulated industry to ensure that everyone understands and engages in their respective roles in food safety.
This first year of compliance will affect the larger businesses, generally those with 500 or more employees. Many businesses of that size already have a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) program; we don’t expect them to need to make many changes to come into compliance. Aspects of the CGMP and preventive controls rules are similar to HACCP, a food safety system that started with industry. (The human and animal food rules have staggered compliance dates; smaller businesses have a year or more additional time to comply.)
Does the focus on education mean that companies won’t really be held to these standards yet?
No. The FDA’s mandate is to protect public health and, when necessary, the agency will act swiftly. But keep in mind that our primary goal, not just in the first months but going forward, is to work with the food industry to create a culture of food safety, a culture of compliance with procedures, processes, and practices that we know will minimize the risk of serious illness or death.
What is the best thing covered food facilities can be doing now?
The best thing that people in the food industry can do is take the measures required by the new rules – not just the letter of the law but what it represents in terms of transforming the food safety system. They should look at the big picture, at areas in which they could be vulnerable and proactively take action. Promptly responding to problems, even if they aren’t yet violations, can prevent them from getting to the point at which there is a concern about the safety of the food.
In addition, facilities should set up a thorough system for documenting what they do. The better the records, the more a company can demonstrate that it is meeting the legal standard. Put processes and procedures in place to prevent problems in the first place, and consider having some redundancy in the system so that if one measure fails, another can take its place.
If there is a problem, state or federal investigators will ask questions like: When problems came to your attention, what did you do? Were you proactive in looking for the problems in the first place? If you could not find a solution, did you get the right expertise? Did you educate your employees?
Where can companies go wrong?
A company’s approach should not be: “The government was here and did our inspection. We’re safe for X amount of time.” Rather we want facilities to be confident that if FDA or the state walks in tomorrow, they’ll be able to demonstrate what they're doing to meet the new food safety requirements.
And it really is up to the management of a company to create that culture by attending to the facility and its production processes and making sure that everyone in the production chain understands what is expected and has the training and education they need to get the job done.
What is the ultimate goal?
The purpose of these rules is to create a preventive, food safety system that is self-sustaining. Everybody in a food facility should be systematically operating in a way that complies with the law.
The preventive controls requirements fulfill the paradigm shift toward prevention that was envisioned in FSMA and, in combination with CGMPs, will help protect consumers into the future.
We want to see people doing the best they can. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. They’re learning; we’re learning. We are very committed to educating while we regulate to align understanding and expectations.
First Major FSMA Compliance Dates: Landmarks and Learning Experiences
Posted on September 19, 2016 by FDA Voice
By: Stephen Ostroff, M.D., and Howard Sklamberg, J.D.
The phrase “where the rubber meets the road” is one that comes up in conversations about different subjects, from athletics to academics, when carefully laid plans are put to a crucial test. That’s where we are today with the arrival of the first major compliance dates under the regulations developed by FDA to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
This is the day when larger businesses must comply with certain new standards under the preventive controls rules for human and animal food, two of the main rules developed to drive down the incidence of foodborne illnesses in our country. Larger human food facilities must meet preventive controls and modernized Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements (CGMPs); larger animal food facilities must meet CGMPs. (The human and animal food rules have staggered compliance dates; animal food businesses have additional time to meet the preventive controls standards, as do smaller producers of human foods.)
The preventive controls rules were the first two of seven foundational FSMA rules to become final starting in September 2015. Human food facilities are required to have a food safety system in place that includes an analysis of hazards and risk-based preventive controls to minimize or prevent those hazards. The standards that animal food facilities must meet mark the first time that CGMPs have been broadly required for the safe production of animal food.
FSMA was signed into law in 2011 in the wake of mounting concerns by consumers and lawmakers about outbreaks of foodborne illness that kill thousands of people and animals every year. What followed was an unprecedented effort by FDA to involve the diverse landscape of food safety stakeholders, including growers, manufacturers, importers, distributors, consumer groups, and academic institutions, in the formulation of rules that are practical, flexible and effective for the food industry at home and abroad while protecting the public from contaminated food.
Since FSMA was enacted in 2011, we have literally traveled the world to get input on the rules we proposed in 2013 and early 2014 to implement the law. FDA teams have been involved in approximately 600 engagements, including public meetings, webinars, listening sessions, farm tours, visits to manufacturing plants and extensive presentations and meetings with various stakeholder groups.
As a result of these conversations, we made significant changes in September 2014 to four of the FSMA proposed rules, including the preventive controls rules, to make them more feasible and, ultimately, more effective.
So what happens now? This is a new chapter for all of us. FDA is focusing on providing the support that companies need to comply with the new requirements with education, training and technical assistance. We will be looking at how facilities are working to comply with the new food-safety standards and protect consumers from unsafe food. Of course, our mandate is to protect public health and, when necessary, the agency will act swiftly to do so.
The conversations we had with stakeholders in creating the rules will continue as we move further into the implementation phase with the preventive controls and other rules. We will be sharing our thinking on how requirements should be met in guidance documents and asking for the public to continue to provide feedback. If necessary, changes will be made; aspects of the rules will be fine-tuned. This first wave of compliance dates is important to the entire spectrum of FSMA implementation; the lessons learned will be invaluable in the years ahead when smaller food facilities are held to the new standards.
So today, the rubber meets the road. But these compliance dates aren’t the beginning of the end of our work to make FSMA a reality. They’re the end of the beginning. The partnership that FDA has forged with food producers of all kinds, and with its state, local, tribal and international regulatory partners, will ultimately protect consumers for generations to come.