FSMA Tamlin

Will FSMA Rules Increase or Decrease the Number of Food Recalls?

By Linda Bryan
Chief Executive Officer
Tamlin Software

The recent flood of food recalls has taken a pretty strong bite out of the food industry these days. Regardless of whether more and more firms are meeting safety standards or not, the number of food recalls over the last few months has been nothing short of alarming.

Even some of the best companies and most respected brands in the world have been hit with recalls recently. And with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) mandates looming in the near future, U.S. food companies will have even more stringent regulatory standards to satisfy. So the question on every food producer’s mind is (or at least should be), if food recalls are currently on the rise, will new FSMA rules add fuel to a fire that’s already spreading out of control?

Like everyone else, I don’t know the answer for certain, but if I were to make an educated guess, my response would be twofold:

  1. In the beginning, the FSMA’s new rules are likely to increase recalls as a result of new and more stringent requirements that weren’t mandatory before;
  2. But after FSMA standards are fully integrated and commonplace within the food industry, its stronger focus on comprehensive safety prevention will actually lead to a decline in recalls due to fewer safety issues at the end-product stage.

FSMA Food Recalls—Authority, Limitations and Benefits

Section 206 of FSMA gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to order a company to recall foods which the agency deems to be adulterated, misbranded or dangerous to human or animal health. (Infant formulas are an exception.)

The guidelines give the food provider an opportunity to cease distribution voluntarily, but if the responsible party refuses to do so within the manner and time required by the FDA, the agency then has the power to proceed with the recall itself.

What’s important to remember, however, is that the FSMA’s primary purpose is to create a stronger focus on procedures to prevent food contamination before it ever becomes a problem companies are forced to deal with. Consequently, the FSMA is basically designed to minimize the need for—and number of—food recalls in the future.

Change is always difficult (and sometimes even painful) in the beginning. But one way or the other, everyone wants fewer recalls, less food-borne illness, and most certainly fewer deaths.