As one of the leading economies of the world with all-round development; the US attaches an extremely high degree of importance to food safety. Since large sections of the diverse population eats food that is prepared from various sources; the public has a tendency for contracting foodborne illnesses.
Food contamination is a national issue
These illnesses are a major worry for US health authorities, since close to 50 million people -an alarmingly high rate of nearly a sixth of the entire population -gets affected by foodborne illnesses every year in the US, resulting in hospitalization for at least a 100,000 of them. A few thousand people are also known to die in the US due to foodborne illnesses.
Legislation to curb contamination
Realizing the need for tackling this problem on a large scale, the American Congress enacted the FSMA on December 21, 2010. The main thrust of this legislation is that it shifted the responsibility of federal regulatory bodies like the FDA from being mere regulators to agencies that contain outbreaks of contamination by responding to such situations. By far, the most important aspect this new Act has introduced is that it gives the FDA the authority to mandatorily recall any food product.
Prevention is better than cure
The FSMA is an important piece of legislation that empowers the FDA to take preventive and corrective action on food contamination. It gives the FDA legislative authority to prevent and rectify food contamination across the US. As a result of this legislation; the FDA focuses on taking preventive steps to contain contamination by requiring food facilities across the US to evaluate hazards in their operations and then take effective contamination control measures. These facilities are required to have a plan ready in place to take corrective actions whenever necessary.
Tackling contamination at the source
The FSMA also empowers the FDA to take science-based standards to produce and harvest vegetables and fruits, so that illness can be contained at another extremely important source. It makes food companies accountable for the steps they take to prevent contamination from fruits and vegetables. This is a unique step that aims to modernize the food supply chain.
Greater emphasis on inspection and compliance
With the passage of this Act; the FDA has made inspection an important aspect of its efforts. Since industry is now held accountable for the quality of the food products it produces; FDA will take a two-pronged strategy: First, it will apply its own inspection resources in a risk-based manner. Second, it will take steps to make its existing inspection resources more effective by taking steps to this effect.
Imported food -a major source
It is with food entering the US from other countries that the FDA needs to exercise maximum alert. A seventh of all the food consumed in the US is from outside. The FSMA mandates a high degree of monitoring on these.
1. Importers have to perform supplier verification activities to ensure that food is safe;
2. The FDA can refuse admission of foods from manufacturers who refuse to allow FDA inspections;
3. The FDA requires certification to the effect that food being imported is safe;
4. The FDA can offer incentives to those producers who show high quality in their produce.