New FDA controls could mean fewer recalls

Collage of food safety recalls. (Media General)

WASHINGTON, DC – The Food and Drug Administration may be months away from releasing new Preventative Controls for all food manufacturers in the United States. This news comes on the heels of four recent large company recalls.

Blue Bell recalled all of its products due to Listeria contamination concerns
Sabra recalled 30,000 cases of hummus in April due to possible Listeria contamination
Amy’s Kitchen recalled 74,000 cases due to possible Listeria contamination
Kraft recalled 242,000 boxes in March over concerns about metal pieces in Macaroni & Cheese

According to the FDA, the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011, is the most sweeping reform of America’s food safety laws in more than 70 years shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. Now, four years later, the rules associated with that law are about to be released.

Jerry Wojtala is the executive director of the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI). He says his organization has been working with the FDA to create food safety training courses in anticipation of the new controls expected to be released in August.

“Everything in the past has been sort of reactive, so now we’re going to see a preventative approach,” Wojtala said.

With the new Preventative Controls, companies, for the first time, will be required to document a hazard analysis. The company will need to determine what could go wrong, and what systems are in place to prevent something from going wrong, along with, what systems need to be changed to prevent it.

State and federal inspectors will require companies to have documented process controls, food safety plans, recall plans, and allergen plans, according to Wojtala. And, the results of those inspections would be open to public scrutiny through the Freedom of Information Act.

Wojtala said the FDA has twice done a study on recalls to find out what really caused them. They discovered about one-third of recalls were directly attributed to employee training.

That’s why the IFPTI is working with the FDA to create better training programs for employees on the front lines of food manufacturing.

“We’ve built a basic sanitation course that covers all the basics and is geared toward people touching our food on a daily basis who may not have a college degree. They are the ones touching our food, and cleaning the equipment on the floor,” Wojtala said.

Wojtala said the new rules will be a game changer for the food industry.
“Until now, there has been no mandatory requirement like there will be for companies to identify hazards and document control,” said Wojtala.

It remains to be seen if the new rules will really decrease recalls.

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