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The Current Implementation Status of FSMA: What’s Required Now, What’s Next, and FDA’s Enforcement to Date

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized a number of rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that address topics such as:

  • Preventive controls for human and animal food
  • Foreign supplier verification programs
  • Prevention of intentional adulteration of the food supply
  • The registration of food facilities

Many of the deadlines for complying with FSMA rules have already passed. There are also multiple upcoming deadlines that covered businesses should be aware of. A summary of several important FSMA requirements and deadlines may be found below.

Rules On Preventive Controls For Human and Animal Food

Preventive Controls Overview
Under this rule, food facilities are required to establish a hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls plan (HARPC), also known as a food safety plan, that identifies and analyzes potential hazards and specifies risk-based preventive controls that minimize or prevent identified hazards. Each HARPC plan must be developed by a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI), defined as “someone who has successfully completed certain training in the development and application of risk-based preventive controls or is otherwise qualified through job experience to develop and apply a food safety system (FDA.gov),” and must be kept in the records of a given food facility.

Preventive Controls Deadlines
Different businesses face different deadlines for completing their HARPC plan. Compliance deadlines for most businesses have already passed. Very small businesses, defined as businesses with under 1 million dollars in average annual sales of human food or under 2.5 million dollars of average annual sales of animal food and businesses subject to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance have until September 17, 2018 to comply. Generally, facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or store human or animal food for U.S. consumption are legally required or will soon be legally required to comply with this rule.

Preventive Controls Enforcement and Requirements
Most U.S. food importers must verify that their suppliers meet applicable FDA food safety requirements, including these Preventive Controls requirements. Therefore, a US importer may ask to review a supplier’s HARPC plan. In the event of an inspection, FDA is also likely to review a facility’s written HARPC plan.

Because developing a written HARPC plan is a complex and potentially time consuming endeavor, it is prudent for food businesses to begin developing their plans as soon as possible. It may also be prudent for businesses to seek assistance from professionals with specialized training in FDA regulatory compliance in order to ensure that their plans meet government standards. Registrar Corp’s Food Safety Specialists are PCQIs and can develop or review a facility’s HARPC plan for FDA compliance.

Rule On Foreign Supplier Verification Programs

Foreign Supplier Verification Program Overview
Under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) rule, U.S. importers must have a written FSVP that is developed by a qualified individual and documents that they have completed risk-based activities meant to verify that the food they import into the United States is produced in a manner that is consistent with U.S. safety standards. Among other things, FSVPs must include an analysis of hazards associated with imported products and their suppliers and a plan for conducting verification activities, such as annual supplier audits, testing and sampling imported products, or reviewing a supplier’s HARPC Food Safety Plan. As part of the supplier analysis, importers must monitor and document the FDA compliance status of each of their suppliers by tracking FDA warning letters, import alerts relating to food safety, and other FDA enforcement actions.

Foreign Supplier Verification Program Deadlines
Importers’ deadlines are based on factors such as the size of a foreign supplier, the nature of the importer, and whether the foreign supplier must meet various regulatory requirements. The deadlines for complying with this rule passed for most importers in May 2017 and March 2018. The deadlines for other importers are scheduled to occur on dates ranging from July 26, 2018 to July 27, 2020.

Foreign Supplier Verification Program Enforcement and Compliance
FDA has begun inspecting importers for FSVP compliance. In 2017, failure to develop an FSVP was cited by FDA 108 times. FSVP inspections are based upon a review of records. Though such inspections may take place at an importer’s place of business, FDA may also ask that an importer provide FSVP records electronically or by some other remote means that quickly delivers records to the agency.

Registrar Corp’s Food Safety Specialists can develop new FSVPs on behalf of importers or review existing FSVPs for compliance. Registrar Corp also offers a tool to assist with the supplier monitoring aspects of FSVP.  In order to monitor supplier compliance on their own, an importer would need to routinely search each individual FDA database for each of their foreign suppliers. In order to make this process easier, Registrar Corp developed the FDA Compliance Monitor.  Users simply submit the facility they would like to monitor and the FDA Compliance Monitor will reveal any FDA Import Alerts, Warning Letters, Import Refusals, Recalls, or Inspection Classifications related to the facility. Printable reports allow users to document the compliance of their monitored facilities per FDA’s requirements.

Rule For Mitigation Strategies To Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration

Intentional Adulteration Overview
Under this rule, most food facilities that are required to register with FDA must develop and implement a written Food Defense Plan for human foods manufactured, processed, packed, or held at the facility. Food Defense Plans should identify vulnerabilities and actionable process steps, mitigation strategies, and procedures for food defense monitoring, corrective actions and verification.

Intentional Adulteration Deadlines
Most covered facilities must comply with FDA’s Intentional Adulteration rule by May 27, 2019.  Small businesses (defined as businesses with fewer than 500 full-time equivalent employees) have one additional year to comply. If you are unsure of whether your business qualifies as small, you can read Registrar Corp’s earlier blog post on how FSMA defines small businesses.  Very small businesses (businesses with less than $10,000,000 in average annual revenue) are exempt from most requirements under FDA’s Intentional Adulteration rule. In order to take advantage of this exemption, businesses must provide records to FDA proving their very small business status by May 27, 2021.

Registrar Corp’s Food Safety Specialists can develop or review a Food Defense Plan for compliance with FDA’s Intentional Adulteration rule.

Amendments to the FDA Registration Process

FSMA made significant changes to the FDA registration process. Food facilities are now required to provide an email address for registration and must assure that FDA will be permitted to inspect the facility under circumstances permitted by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Additionally, FSMA requires facilities to renew their FDA registrations during each even numbered year. For example, because 2018 is even numbered, food facilities will have to renew their registration later this year between October 1 and December 31. It is very important that facilities comply with renewal requirements. In 2017, FDA removed 28% of food facility registrations from its database. Many of these removals resulted from a failure to properly renew registration as was required in 2016.

Registrar Corp’s Regulatory Specialists can help facilities register or renew their registrations with FDA quickly and properly.

Responding to the Implementation of FSMA

FSMA imposes many complex requirements on food businesses. The deadlines for complying with these various requirements have already passed or will soon pass. Businesses should take measures to ensure that they are in compliance. One such measure would be to enlist the help of Registrar Corp’s Regulatory Specialists who have expert knowledge of FSMA and extensive experience in helping businesses comply with FDA regulations. For more information, call +1-757-224-0177 or chat with a Regulatory Advisor 24 hours a day at www.registrarcorp.com/livehelp.