The Future of the Food Safety Modernization Act

In January, President Obama signed a $1.4 billion overhaul of the nation’s food safety system with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Recently, Kelly Hensel, Digital Media Editor at IFT, spoke with John Bode, a Washington, D.C. attorney, to discuss that sweeping legislation, what progress we have seen since it was signed into law, how the U.S. debt crisis may affect its implementation, and what the future holds. Bode was deeply involved in development of the Act, as well as every other major change in federal food law over the past 25 years. While he was in government, Bode was an assistant Secretary of Agriculture.

After listening to John Bode’s opinions on the Act, what do you believe the future holds for the new legislation? Share your thoughts by commenting today!

John Bode

John Bode

 

 

 

 

Transcription:

Kelly: Hi, I am Kelly Hensel with the Institute of Food Technologists. On January 2011, President Obama signed a $1.4 billion overhaul of the U.S. Food Safety System with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Today we are going to talk about what progress we have seen since the Act was signed into law and what the future holds. To help shed light on these issues we are speaking with John Bode a Washington D.C. attorney who was deeply involved in the development of the Act as well as every other major change in federal food law over the past 25 years. While he was in government, John was an Assistant Secretary of Agriculture. Welcome John.
John: Thank you.
Kelly: Now, when the Act was first passed you stated that expected it to be significantly implemented in three years. Obviously, the country has been focused on the federal deficit lately with an eye on cutting as much as possible. Will the federal budget have an effect on the implementation of the Act?
John: It certainly will but FDA is on track and doing it right. In budgetary terms, the Food Safety Modernization Act requires writing of regulations and greater inspectional scrutiny. Writing regulations does not cost much money. Paying lots of inspectors does. So, if you look at the FSMA, the four major things it does is major new programs like accreditation of third parties, inspections and labs and sweeping new enforcement authority. That is not going to cause real budget pressure on FDA so that should move forward without problem.
Extensive new regulatory requirement, FDA is going to write those regulations, industry will implement them so that is not a big budget factor for FDA. What will be affected is the increase in the number of FDA inspections. That will certainly be held down by the budget restriction.
Kelly: All right, given those current financial crises, should the industry take the reins and play a more proactive role in the implementation phase of the act and if so, how can they do that?
John: That is happening and has been happening. Long before FSMA, industry pressures drove extensive use of third-party inspection. Now with the FSMA, FDA will accredit certain third party inspectors. I expect the industry to force use of those third party certifiers, which will better ensure compliance. If funds are not available for the vast increase in FDA inspection envisioned by FSMA, I think those private sector pressures will only increase.
Kelly: In June, the FDA unveiled that new global strategy to insure the safety and quality of imported food. It is obviously a fundamental shift in the way the agency has operated in decades. What is going to need to happen for this transformation to occur?
John: Well there are two basic steps from my perspective. One is the global strategy calls for much greater cooperation with regulatory authorities in other countries and then it also calls for great reliance on third parties. Both of those are underway. We know about the work that FDA has done with China and they are working very diligently to enhance cooperative relationships with other key trading partners. And then, of course, under FSMA, the third party accreditation regulations are being developed. So, it is early but we are off to a really good start on those.
Kelly: That’s great. Well John I want to thank you very much for your time and insight today.
We have been talking to John Bode, a Washington D.C. attorney. Please feel free to share your thoughts on today’s topic by commenting on IFT’s ePerspective blog. And, for more information, check out IFT.org.
For the Institute of Food Technologists I am Kelly Hensel.

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