On January 4, 2011, the US FDA implemented the Food Safety Modernisation Act 2011. Under this new FSMA ACT, all entities producing, handling, transporting, importing or distributing food now have to meet heightened food safety requirements to sell food in the US. The act will be implemented in phases, ending in Dec 2012.
The new food safety requirements cover growers, manufacturers, processors, exporters, importers and require changes in the traditional approaches in the industry. Persons breaching the requirements are subject for penalties, including up to 10 years imprisonment.
Exporters handling food must:
- Plan, test and document their food safety controls
- Write and implement food safety protocols to mitigate potential hazards – HACCP
- Document and update their plans every 2 years or sooner if the company changes suppliers, processors or ingredients.
- Share their food safety plans with the FDA upon request
- Must maintain documents for a minimum of 2 years.
- Implement acceptable traceability and recall procedures – enabling entities to rapidly trace back from where a product was received and track forward to where it was sent.
The FDA now has the authority to order a mandatory recall when the agency determines that there is a reasonable probability that the food poses a health hazard. Previously, the agency could only recommend voluntary recalls. The FDA now has the authority to block foods from facilities or countries that refuse FDA inspections. The FDA plans to increase the number of inspections in foreign facilities that produce foods exported to USA, and will be doing 50 audits early 2012.
The new FDA regulation will affect all entities (100%) exporting food products into the USA. That includes:
- Agro- processors
- Baked Goods
- Fresh Produce
- And more
It is estimated that approximately 200 exporters will be affected – that includes the 160+ registered exporters of food products and approximately another 40+ traders. If the FDA inspects 50 such entities that represents approximately 25% of the group and they are not compliant, not only will they not be allowed to export their products, but it puts them in a position where for the next 4 shipments they will be under greater scrutiny and must be 100% compliant.
If Jamaican exporters are not able to address these new FDA regulations in time, it can adversely affect the sector as a whole. The agricultural sector employs approximately 18.9% of the Jamaican labour force and contributes 5.6% to the Jamaican economy.