Effects of FSMA still unclear as pieces are put in place
FSMA is still a big deal for processors, but what it exactly means is still being determined
It’s that time of year again. With the ushering in of the holidays, work activities start to slow down, at least for some of us, and familial engagements and traditions start to take over.
For me, it marks the closing of the year, where I start to reflect on what I’ve accomplished in the last 12 months and what I’d like to get done in the foreseeable future. It’s a useful bit of assessment designed to simultaneously amaze, disappoint and inspire in terms of what can be done in an arbitrary period of time.
Applying this critical review to the food and beverage industry, most likely, the Food Safety Modernization Act would be high on the list of accomplishments.
This year, the Preventative Controls regulation compliance date for small businesses came and went, which was highly anticipated by processors and suppliers alike, and the effects have been a little opaque.
But does FSMA matter? And if so, to paraphrase the Roman question, who benefits, or in Latin, Cui bono?
If we’ve heard one consistent message from politicians this last year, it is that regulations are bad. Politicians call them out for causing unnecessary burdens and costs to industry, which in turn, negatively affect all American citizens.
It’s easy to see this as a modern trend, but in fact, it is, at least, a decades-old message. In the new season of the podcast The Uncertain Hour, Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark examines the history of one food regulation in particular, peanut butter. This example might be a bit of an outlier since it took the FDA a whopping 12 years to conclude what legally can be called peanut butter. But it does shine a light on the formation of regulations.
This year’s PC compliance date for small companies was a bit of a nail-biter, because it was assumed these were the most vulnerable companies, since the big food companies had already, years ago, invested in the plant upgrades necessary to reach regulatory compliance. But that may or may not be the case.
In the last few months, there’s been an interesting development regarding increasing regulations and some in the industry being for them. At least two food companies have agreed with new labeling requirements disclosing GMO ingredients and added sugars, and this position seemingly contributed to their decisions to discontinue membership with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has been working against these regulations.
This brings into question some of the usual clichés heard around regulations, such as that they are bad for business and that industry hates them. And this is essentially what the latest episodes from The Uncertain Hour also question.
“The way regulations are portrayed is that it’s government vs. industry, and that it’s this tug of war, but that’s an oversimplification,” says Clark. “This story highlights the importance of getting everybody at the table in the development of regulations … it’s going to be a bit of a messy process, but it is important to get all different stakeholders together, and not everybody is going to be happy.”
This doesn’t make adhering to new regulations any easier, but maybe a good New Year’s resolution for all of us would be patience?
In any case, here’s wishing you and yours happy holidays!