The new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is changing the requirements for food traceability and overall authority that the Secretary will have to inspect the facilities of producers. While this law goes so far as to grant authority to the government to shut down the operations of a business that fails to meet specific criteria, many small farms and manufacturers are being exempt from required registration. The three main criteria for exclusion are determined by the operations of the business and to whom the products are sold.
If the gross sales of a business are below the threshold of $ 500,000 per annum, a business will be exempt from the new law. This was included as an amendment to prevent the negative impact to small farms and retail food establishments. This includes internet-based businesses that have revenue below the threshold limit and produce products intended for consumption. This amendment does not specify whether a business will have to register during the same year that the revenue exceeds the threshold or if there will be a delay to the next registration cycle. It is expected that many details will be hammered out once the law comes into full swing in 2012.
When the majority of the customers of a farm are end-clients, meaning they will directly use the produce, it will also be excluded from this law. In the current format, farms that sell most of their produce to retail marketing establishments, local grocery stores, or farmer’s markets will be excluded from the required registration and the routine inspections that are included under the new law. Farms will have to be under the threshold limit even if they sell a majority of their produce directly to consumers. Once they are over the threshold limit, registration will be required at a certain point.
Retail food establishments are considered to have a majority of their revenue earned with processed foods and services. This is common in small producers who receive fresh foods and process it through various methods for sale directly to end-clients. Farms that likewise process a majority of their produce to be sold directly to consumers will avoid the registration and inspections under the new law. There is no threshold limit for these manufactures, but that is not expected to remain as the law matures.
While a predominate amount of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act focuses on the controlling of foodborne illness, the mechanism of tracking down the initial supplier is important. If a business is exempt from registration under this act, it does not exclude it from an investigation due to food contamination. Keeping records is strongly advised for businesses even if they are excluded from the routine inspections since this law gives more authority in the control of the distribution of produce and processed goods. Having an excellent record keeping process will also ease the transition when becoming a registered business.
An excellent source of practical advice about food safety systems including produce traceability can be found at http://www.redlineforproduce.com.