Saying it is unable to single-handedly oversee compliance of the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Food and Drug Administration is emphasising voluntary compliance and other measures.

FDA seeks help for food safety complianceThrough the Food Safety Modernization Act Operational Strategy document, the FDA says public health will be improved through prevention, voluntary compliance, risk-based oversight and expanded cooperation in the food safety community, according to a news release.

In a blog post about the document, called “We’re Reinventing Ourselves to Keep Your Food Safe,” FDA officials Michael Taylor and Howard Sklamberg said the new approach will be a “springboard for discussion.”

“And we know discussion is needed, because the strategy that will make FSMA a success requires significant change in how we at FDA do our work and how we work with our partners,” according to the blog.

The FDA has been focused on creating regulations related to the food safety law, passed by Congress in 2010, the agency said the next phase will focus on ensuring compliance with the rules, the agency said in a release.

“The agency has to design methods to promote widespread voluntary industry compliance with the new rules, as well as establish preventive/public health-focused inspection and sampling programs to oversee compliance,” according to the release.

The agency is developing enforcement strategies to be used when producers, processors, distributors and importers fail to comply voluntarily.

The FDA must change the way it works, according to the release, because of the global scale and complexity of the food system.

“Hundreds of thousands of growers and processors worldwide are producing food for the U.S. market, using increasingly diverse and complicated processes, managing complex and extended supply chains, and making millions of decisions every day that affect food safety,” according to the document. “The burgeoning scale and complexity of the food system make it impossible for FDA on its own, employing our historic approaches, to provide the elevated assurances of food safety envisioned by FSMA and needed to maintain a high level of consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply.”

The FDA document said the that food safety depends “primarily on the food industry.” Food industry managers must commit to implement science- and risk-based preventive measures and manage their operations and supply chains to prove that appropriate measures are being implemented.

The agency said expanded oversight authority allows it to provide industry technical expertise, setting and fostering compliance with food safety standards.

The FDA will use an expanded oversight toolkit that includes:

  • commodity-specific guidance on prevention-oriented standards;
  • education and outreach to ensure requirements are understood;
  • technical assistance for compliance, especially by small and mid-size operators;
  • regulatory incentives, such as less frequent or intense inspection for good performers;
  • reliable third-party audits to verify compliance; and
  • public education, transparency, and publicity to promote compliance and prevention.