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PMMI Corner: Focus turns to new food safety laws

Tony Pavel Jr. (second from right) participates in a panel discussion about the Food Safety Modernization Act at a PMMI conference.

In 2010, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed into law, the most comprehensive food safety legislation in the past 50 years. Because this legislation impacts the entire processing and packaging supply chain, PMMI invited attorney Tony Pavel Jr., a partner at K&L Gates LLP and an authority on the new legislation, to participate in a panel discussion on food safety at its second annual Pack Expo Thought Leaders Dinner last month in Chicago.

We caught up with Tony after the panel to learn more about how the legislation will affect food manufacturers, processers and packagers.

F&BP: What are the immediate implications of the FSMA for manufacturers?

Pavel: Quite frankly, while the legislation is quite robust, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says implementation is on schedule, there is a large gray area about finding the funding for the legislation. That uncertainty makes the timing for many parts of the FSMA unclear.

F&BP: What about cost implications? Will the price of packaging increase significantly?

Pavel: While the goal of the FSMA is to ensure that consumers are getting the safest food possible, there will clearly be an increased financial burden on the food manufacturer. How significant the cost increase will be depends on a number of factors, including the content of the final FDA regulations/guidance; costs for consultants, if needed; auditing costs; testing costs; and new fees (re-inspection), all of which will affect the final price of packaging and foods. 

F&BP: In terms of compliance, what are packaging plants responsible for?

Pavel: FSMA imposes a number of new requirements on “registered facilities,” i.e., any establishment that manufactures, processes, packs or holds food. New requirements include biennial registration with the FDA, performing hazard analyses and additional record-keeping requirements, including the preparation of written control plans. The statute also imposes verification requirements for firms’ preventive controls.

F&BP: How should food manufacturers be prepared to address issues of supply chain management?

Pavel: Initially, food manufacturers should review their current supplier verification programs (and current suppliers) to determine what changes may be needed to assure compliance with the preventive controls required by the FSMA. Supply agreements should be reviewed and updated to include provisions requiring compliance with FSMA provisions. Companies should also look at their records management processes and determine what changes or improvements may be needed F&BP

Food packaging and processing professionals can gain insight into the latest technologies that will help them comply with FSMA legislation at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2011 (Sept. 26-28 at the Las Vegas Convention Center). Discounted registration is currently available at www.packexpo.com.

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