If you’re in the food processing industry and responsible for your company’s quality assurance program, watch out! This year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is poised to take a giant step further toward meeting the safety standards established by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law on January 4, 2011, but became fully effective just last September. Under the new regulations, the FDA will considerably strengthen its food safety and enforcement protocols, holding all responsible parties to a much higher standard. By including provisions for criminalizing food safety failures, the FDA is demonstrating its intent to go after foodborne illnesses much more aggressively than it has in the past.

By way of background, the FDA began computerized tracking of food contamination through the Reportable Food Registry in 2009. Once companies began systematically reporting their contamination cases, a plethora of high-profile companies were cited including, most notably, Chipotle Mexican Grill in 2015. These outbreaks led to a public and regulatory outcry, which resulted in much stricter regulations. Under FSMA, the FDA now has the power to initiate unannounced inspections, conduct huge retail food testing programs, recall vast product inventories and initiate criminal procedures against offenders—even those with no prior knowledge of the contamination.

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