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Ten Years of FSMA: Are We Headed in the Right Direction?

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HeavyConnect Team
Workers processing lettuce

Last week marks ten years since the FDA released the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011 in response to concerns about food safety and outbreaks. The new guidelines required an industry-wide shift in food safety rules and led to efforts across the supply chain to meet the new standards. This milestone is an opportunity to consider whether FSMA has been successful and where the next ten years will take us.

Looking Back at the Past Ten Years

Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the FDA, reflects on the first ten years of FSMA as a good start to an unfinished project:

"There has been a bigger conversation about the importance of food safety over the past decade. This call to action has emanated from the halls of Congress to farms, food production facilities, corporate boardrooms and consumers all over the world.”

More recently, in 2019 the FDA released a new initiative to support FSMA, the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint.

Yiannas said: “A priority in the New Era blueprint is the continued establishment and development of food safety cultures on farms and in food facilities all over the world. While the importance of shaping attitudes and commitments to food safety has always been central to FSMA, the New Era will advance this principle to help ensure that every link in the global supply chain understands the importance of the steps they are taking under FSMA to protect consumers.”

You can read the rest of Yiannas’s remarks on the ten year anniversary here. It’s clear that the FDA sees FSMA as still evolving to best address food safety challenges.

The Produce Marketing Association’s first town hall of the year addressed the same theme: “New Year, Old Food Safety Problems.” A panel led by the PMA’s Chief Science Officer Max Teplitski discussed the concerns that have continued into the new year. He acknowledged the FSMA ten year milestone, but noted that “so far it hasn’t delivered.”

In 2020, testing was often seen as a solution to food safety challenges. The PMA panel agreed that end product testing can give the illusion of security, but in reality it doesn’t improve problems. New requirements like Canada’s rule last fall to “test and hold” romaine from the Salinas valley might make consumers feel better, but testing for pathogens in food addresses the end result instead of the cause. 

Ultimately, the best way to address food safety before problems arise is through an organization’s culture, which needs to impact every employee at the company regardless of their role.

Looking Forward to the Next Ten Years

This time last year, we wrote about the top priorities for FSMA in 2020. The top concerns for growers then are the same today:

  • meeting food safety regulations
  • the cost of food safety regulations for produce and other farm products, and
  • maintaining food safety compliance in the field to ensure high-quality, safe farm products.

As we wrote a year ago, food producers continue to face challenges in pushing their employees to adopt a food safety culture. They are still interested in tools that build that culture into every step of food production and encourage employee accountability.

The next ten years will see constant innovation to continue improving food safety. Tools like HeavyConnect will become even more critical parts of an organization’s strategy. 

HeavyConnect helps document compliance with FSMA and other regulations, but even more fundamentally it supports behavioral change across a company. Everyone is held accountable: from workers who use the app to complete checklists in the field, to managers who monitor reports on their dashboard, to the auditors and suppliers who are sent completed reports.

How has FSMA impacted your organization over the past ten years? Is it headed in the right direction? Let us know by commenting below. 

To learn how HeavyConnect can help you implement a digital food safety management system to support a food safety culture throughout your organization, contact us at hello@heavyconnect.com or request a free demo.


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