FSMA and Your Food Business

Happy Food Safety Month! The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is a federal regulation whose name has been at the back of every food producer’s mind since its inception in 2011. Many makers think of FSMA as something that will affect them eventually, not immediately. They put off learning about it, preferring to wait until a local regulatory body slaps them on the wrist for non-compliance. The rules and regulations of FSMA may seem too monumental to even begin to understand.

We’re here to gently suggest that that method of compliance is not advisable. Before you click away, putting off the reality of FSMA for another day, here are a few quick facts:

  • You’re affected. You’re subject to these regulations, despite how small you are. Small and very small businesses (less than $1m in revenue) may be eligible for modified requirements, but still must prove that they are employing preventative controls AND complying with non-Federal food safety regulations. “Exempt” doesn’t mean “off the hook.”
  • The time is now. This calendar of compliance dates for different rules and different types of businesses is very handy. Most important to note is that this month is compliance deadline for the Preventative Controls for Human Foods rule, including for very small businesses. Don’t put it off any longer!

Don’t hyperventilate. Here’s how to deal.

The good thing about a 7-year rollout for the most sweeping overhaul of our food safety regulations in history is that many, many resources have been developed to help you comply. Trying to print and read the rules from the FDA’s website is likely not the best use of your time. Instead, take advantage of resources in your area. This list of USDA offices can help you find the centers nearest to you. Cooperative Extension networks, developed to help farmers & food producers, are likely your best bet. They are likely holding regular workshops, posting web content, and can answer questions in-person or via email.

Another nifty little tool is the FDA’s Food Safety Plan Builder. It’s not the kind of thing you can just download and dive into! We’d recommend watching the YouTube video they provide and following the instructions carefully. But it’s a well-built and useful way to gather the regulatory compliance documentation that you’ll be required to provide.

Finally, if you have the financial resources available, myriad food safety consultants exist to help you and your business comply. This person should spend time with your business, understand your process and the regulatory climate around it, and then provide recommendations. This great article from Food Safety Magazine warns against consultants who might provide generic safety plans that you won’t actually follow. They warn against a “one-size-fits-all” approach, as it may not actually provide any food safety value to your business.

Make the call.

Compliance is overwhelming, but much less so when you’ve got friends in your corner. We urge you to find your local Extension agent, your health inspector, your local university’s agriculture department, or a maker in your neighborhood.

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