Last Thursday, FDA announced it has finalized two of seven major rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

“Today’s announcement sets us on the path to a modern food safety system that will prevent illnesses and continue to build confidence in the safety of the food served to our families every day,” says Stephen Ostroff, acting FDA commissioner.

The two rules will require each human and animal food facility to develop and implement written food safety plans that indicate the possible problems that could affect the safety of its products and outline steps the facility can take to minimize these risks. Food companies will be accountable for monitoring their facilities, identifying any potential hazards in their products and preventing those hazards.  Under these rules, FDA says it will be able to assess these systems and respond better when food safety problems occur. The new rules will go into effect next year.

“We’ve been working with states, food companies, farmers and consumers to create smart, practical and meaningful rules,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “And we have made a firm commitment to provide guidance, technical assistance and training to advance a food safety culture that puts prevention first.”

According to CDC, an estimated one in six Americans (48 million people) get sick from foodborne diseases each year. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized due these illnesses, and 3,000 die. Over the past few years, high-profile outbreaks related to various foods, from spinach to peanut products to ice cream, cilantro and cucumbers, have underscored the need to make continuous improvements in food safety.

FDA calls the finalized rules the first step in putting greater emphasis on the prevention of foodborne illness, holding imported food to the same food safety standards as domestically produced food and developing a nationally integrated food safety system in partnership with state and local authorities.

The food industry supports the new rules and has commended FDA for the transparent, inclusive way it went through the evaluation process.

The final rules represent the culmination of an extensive outreach effort that resulted in thousands of public comments, including valuable input from farmers, consumers, and food industry and academic experts.

“FSMA ensures prevention is the cornerstone of our nation’s food safety strategy, places new responsibilities on food and beverage manufacturers and provides FDA with the authority it needs to further strengthen our nation’s food safety net,” says Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). GMA says it has taken an active role in the industry to educate food and beverage manufacturers on what it will take to comply with the new rules not only in the US, but in the entire global supply chain.

American Frozen Food Institute President and CEO Kraig Naasz calls food safety the highest priority for the industry and says AFFI has invested significant resources to develop tools and strategies to help manufacturers stay in compliance.

 “FSMA represents a comprehensive system of preventative measures, so it is essential that FDA be appropriately resourced to effectively implement and enforce all the food safety mandates set forth in the law,” Bailey says. “The food and beverage industry is committed to working with Congress, the Obama Administration and all stakeholders to ensure Congress appropriates the necessary funding for FDA to fully implement FSMA.”