There is no doubt much conversation and anticipation regarding the outcome of the upcoming election, but what impact will it have on FSMA and food safety? SafetyChain’s October FSMA Fridays session with Dr. David Acheson of The Acheson Group (TAG) provided an insightful and timely discussion on the pending election and FSMA - What Are We Seeing So Far?
If you missed this informative session, the complete recording is now available here. Here are some some key highlights to share.
FSMA + Election Year: What are we seeing so far?
This is a question that came up months ago in terms of predicting what may happen with regards to food safety under a Clinton presidency versus a Trump presidency. Of course Dr. Acheson does not have a magic crystal ball to foresee the outcome of the election, but he did provide some interesting insight based on his experience of time spent in Washington and connection with the political scene.
Dr. Acheson noted that in previous elections, there were some major food safety issues regarding peanut butter and pistachios, for example, that had an impact on the Obama administration. Acheson went on to say, “Right now, I'm pretty comfortable that what we've got today will continue...the White House reacts to major situations that pertain to food safety. Thank goodness, for all concerned, we haven’t had one.”
What do we foresee that the presidential candidates will do with regard to food safety? FSMA? Can the FDA be deregulated?
“Short of some major crisis blowing up, I really don't see either of our candidates changing anything on food safety. I don't think there's an appetite for it. There isn't an obvious need for it. Right now, I'm pretty comfortable that what we've got today will continue.” Acheson commented.
Although Acheson mentioned hearing a Trump comment regarding deregulating FDA, he expressed that the emerging issue, or question, is whether a Republican administration would deregulate FDA. He discussed that this anti-regulation rhetoric, including comments about the FDA food police and reducing inspections, is in fact just that, rhetoric.
According to Acheson, the regulatory strategy on the Food Safety Modernization Act is here to stay forever. Although there are a series of new regulations pending, the major ones, such as the Preventative Control rules and Foreign Supplier Verification Produce, are final. While the next administration has the capacity to slow things down, much as any new administration does, most likely the FDA and Washington will continue at the same pace.
When asked for some predictions for the next 4 years of food safety, Acheson replied, “Other than to say that I see the FSMA train continuing to rumble down the tracks, there’s obviously a great deal of implementations that’s going to kick in.” Now that the deadline for the two big preventive control rules for large companies has passed, any other deadline would be post-election. While compliance dates may or may not shift, a logical shift to align the rules better may be in store.
Acheson continued, “Some predictions for the next 4 years, we’re seeing, I think, a change in FDA’s approach to food safety. They’re currently, I think, less tolerant, they’re less open to conversations. They are feeling a lot of pressure, the agency itself, I think much more so on the FDA side than FSIS. I do see that trend continuing.”
What is the FDA currently doing in regards to FSMA enforcement?
Commented Acheson: “Currently the FDA is trying to train and educate internally, as well as externally, but I think they will also begin to press the enforcement button as we go forward. I think we have said many times that the FDA will be learning from the private sector more than anything. Which raises the concern that the private side will know a whole lot more about the details of the rules than the inspectors. Don't be complacent, don't take any of this for granted. If you're not there yet, I think the FDA understand that this is a heavy lift for many. But as we've said on previous FSMA Fridays, have a strategy.”
What can we expect going forward?
According to Dr. Acheson, more guidance documents are forthcoming but dates and timelines are not yet known. “It's pretty much covered in the advice that we've discussed before on FSMA Fridays, still pertains, is keep pushing. Shoot for those deadlines and if you're not quite there then have a good explanation and a good strategy to explain to an inspector where the gaps are and what you're doing to fill them.”
Thus regardless of whichever new administration takes over the White House in 2017, all indicators point to FSMA continuing to move full speed ahead.
We will continue to track the progress of FSMA and look forward to continuing the dialog of all things FSMA. Be sure to join us for November’s FSMA Fridays session where we will be discussing Environmental Controls. And of course Dr. Acheson and the TAG team will share the latest FSMA updates. Not registered yet for our monthly series? Don’t delay – visit: www.FSMAFridays.com.
Need consultation on FSMA relative to your current food safety plan? Dr. Acheson and The Acheson Group are great resources. Visit: www.achesongroup.com