Food Safety Modernization Act - What is it?

28 Sep 2013 04.45 am by K. Daniel

To the average layperson food safety laws may not be much of a concern, or perhaps not really something that flies into the radar, while food quality is something that is constantly high on the list.


It's quite entertaining to observe such contrast eventhough one could directly affect the other. In terms of availability, there is almost an expectancy on the consumer's side for the big companies to take responsibility and ownership for the products that they produce, as well as compliance with regulations. Products that we eat each and every day. And yes, this includes fruits and vegetables.


But once a breach of practice or compromise on the quality has occured, all hell breaks loose.


Case in point, the infamous case of melamine tainted milk, also known as the 2008 Chinese milk scandal, received world wide coverage. Not only because of the magnitude of goods tainted, but also the amount of victims, up to 300,000 individuals by 2008 according to a report by the Guardian.


As a matter of fact, this is not a new nor unique issue. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), 48 million cases of illnesses, 128,000 of hospitalization and 48,000 deaths were estimated in 2011, all linked to food related diseases, in the USA alone.


Perhaps then it is time to have a renewed interest in what processes our foods go through no?


Enter the FDA FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act),  a US law which was passed back in 2011 signed by Barack Obama. The act itself focuses on updating practices in food production including record keeping, better communication across all production and distribution sectors, as well as a higher standard for compliance. This all translates to better food quality and safety overall.


To the consumer, this is GREAT news! However responses amongst producers have been mixed. In general small farms were opposed to the bill, because it caused added strain in the production sector. There were more requirements for maintaining the product, and the accompanying paperwork was not viewed favourably.


Larger companies in general acted more favourably towards the bill. That is, until an amendment was made to exempt small farms which produced less than $500,000 in annual sales. The argument was that the exemption compromised food safety and puts the consumers at risk.


So what does this mean to the average layperson? Well, depends on how you look at it. As a consumer the act really benefits you because it means that foods are produced with a higher standard of safety and quality. Producers will have more requirements to comply with but a higher quality product as an endpoint.


Small backyard gardens are obviously not within the scope of the bill, but then again there is no guarantee that it will remain that way. Quality of the foods that you produce in effect will be the quality of the foods that you eat anyway, and as such perhaps it is time to renew our interest in what we produce.



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