Are Funding Issues Crippling the Food Safety Modernization Act?

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) (P.L. 111-353) was signed into law in January of 2011 and provides for increased scrutiny on imported foods, to make regulatory standards clearer for manufacturers and farmers, gives the FDA the authority to order recalls, and aims to make food contamination tracking easier. Despite its plethora of good intentions and bipartisan support, the FSMA seems to have fallen flat and the FDA is now claiming that it doesn’t have the funds to implement the new measures. As early as January of this year, industry experts were reporting a growing concern about the lack of implementation and forward movement with the FSMA.

According to the Chicago Tribune and other media sources, FDA Chief Margaret Hamburg recently relayed that “… implementation process has been slow because Congress has not provided sufficient funds to meet the law’s ambitious demands.” New regulations to enforce  key provisions of the FSMA are coming out shortly, but questions remain if the money to actually follow through with the enforcement exists. However, as of October 1st of 2012, “food facilities” were supposed to begin registering and re-registering with the FDA, a task which should be completed by December 31st of the year. The FDA has not determined if the deadline will be changed, but it is clear that the registration process did not begin on October 1st, due to the FDA’s lack of supporting guidance material to assist food facilities with the process.

Despite the government’s slow movement on the FSMA, the private industry is implementing change. A California uniform rental company recently passed inspections in order to offer uniform and garments for food workers that are laundered with a special process that kills food borne pathogens and can reduce the rate of food borne illness transmission.

The FDA still presented a lectured in the middle of October regarding food safety, but whether or not the FSMA continues forward in its implementation remains to be seen. Some industry experts think that rules and guidances will be issued shortly after the November 6th presidential election- so keep your eye on this topic in the coming months.