The FDA has released its latest Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (Retail Program Standards) with the goal of promoting uniformity in implementing effective regulatory standards for U.S. retail food production at the state, local, tribal, and territorial levels. The FDA announced the release of the 2015 edition, which provides recommendations for the design and management of food regulatory programs so as to improve inspections and prevent foodborne illnesses.
Retail Program Standards
In addition to providing design and management recommendations for food regulatory programs, the FDA’s Retail Program Standards also recognize programs that have achieved progress in implementing the standards and assist in identifying program areas on which focus should be placed so as to improve inspections and prevent foodborne illnesses.
According to the FDA, the Retail Program Standards also promote the adoption of science-based guidelines from the FDA Food Code and promote the improvement of training programs and the implementation of risk-based inspection programs. Additionally, the Retail Program Standards assist in the development of outbreak and food defense surveillance plans, which ensure that a systematic approach is taken to detecting and responding to foodborne illness of food contamination.
The 2015 edition contains new worksheets to assist regulatory programs in assessing how their programs align with the 2013 FDA Food Code. The worksheets can also assist such programs in evaluating the consistency and effectiveness of compliance and enforcement activities, in addition to serving as verification tools for independent auditors in reviewing self-assessments. The FDA notes that jurisdictions can use the worksheets and materials even if they are not enrolled in the Retail Program Standards.
The FDA is encouraging all jurisdictions to enroll in the Retail Program Standards, which will allow such jurisdictions to apply for FDA funding to assist in furthering food regulatory program improvement efforts.