The Food Safety Modernization Act: Increased Regulations on the Transportation and Handling of Food

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the risks in the food supply chain. The Food Safety Modernization Act, recently signed by President Obama is a big step in addressing these concerns. While the public is asking for more stringent regulation and oversight, growers and producers are concerned about how these new powers will impact the handling and transportation of food throughout the United States.

The purpose of the Food Safety Modernization Act is to give the federal government more power to actively prevent food borne illnesses, not just clean them up. The increasing anxiety of the public over the safety of the food supply adds to the controversy between consumer advocates and business interests.

Some are advocating shortening the supply chain by encouraging consumers to buy directly from the producer. While this may at first appear to support greater food safety, a closer look might reveal greater pitfalls. What does the consumer know about the safe handling of food? How aware are the about the risks of food borne illnesses? Without a good understanding of safe food handling and transportation practices, the consumer may look right at a high risk situation and not even realize it.

Fortunately, with the technology currently available, tracing food products in real time throughout the food supply chain is not only possible, but realistic. Many systems in place for inventory management in material handling make it possible to follow a product from grower or producer, to retail outlet and possibly event to the consumer’s table. Bar codes have long been in use and their use may increase dramatically as the FDA’s new record keeping regulations are put into place.

This new legislation gives the FDA broad reaching access to food producers records. They will have complete access to all records relating to the manufacturing and processing of food products. Other areas include food processing, packaging and transportation. Any step in the food supply chain where there is reasonable probability of exposure or contamination is subject to FDA review and regulation. These records must be provided to the FDA on request.

Before the new Act went into effect, the FDA had access only to records of food that they believed had been adulterated. Now, under the Food Safety Modernization Act, if there is a reasonable belief that a food product is contaminated, they can request the records. This has lowered the bar on when the FDA can step into the supply chain and act to prevent contaminated food reaching the public.