Annual food and beverage trends tend to be like pizza: essentially the same every year with one or two new spices. However, with a new administration in the White House, the food industry outlook (and that goes for the beverage industry outlook, too) is looking a lot less predictable—with a few more new “spices” thrown in.
For starters, many uncertainties are on the menu this year, chiefly because the new administration has an increased focus on the elimination of certain regulations, apparently referring to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a sweeping legislation that aims to reform America’s food safety laws by shifting focus to preventing contamination from simply responding to contamination.
Food Processing, a major online resource for food and beverage manufacturers, has pointed out the following concerns:
- Which regulations—food labeling, for instance—would be up for less enforcement and which ones would be up for outright repeal?
- Will GMO labeling and other right-to-know laws be abolished?
- Will funding for certain regularity programs such as inspections of food facilities be reduced?
- Will upcoming compliance dates be extended?
Almost all of these uncertainties are tied to the FSMA. Enacted in 2011 by the previous administration, FSMA compliance is now well underway, with several major deadlines due this 2017.
Compliance deadlines include those for human food preventive controls, foreign imports, sanitary transport, animal food preventive controls, produce safety, and food defense.
The deadlines for human food preventive controls are particularly pressing not only because they are due this year but also because of the prevailing uncertainties. These controls require large raw-material consumers such as manufacturers and processors to bring FSMA-compliant supply-chain programs on line by March 17, 2017, and small businesses to develop written food safety plans by September 17, 2017.
Foreign imports, too, are under pressure, with deadlines in May and August. Under the FSMA rule, importers are mandated to have in place by May 27, 2017 verification programs to ensure that foreign food imports are produced according to FDA-compliant safety standards.
Sanitary transport is also up against a fast-approaching deadline. By April 6, 2017, FSMA requires big shippers, carriers, receivers, and loaders to have complied with the new regulations on the safe transport of food by motor or rail. FSMA compliance will particularly impact record-keeping policies, contracts, and training of carrier personnel. Meanwhile, smaller businesses have one more year to prepare for compliance.
Food defense, on the other hand, gets two more years to be fully FSMA-compliant. By July 26, 2019, large facilities are required to have written up food defense plans against the risks of deliberate adulteration.
In contrast, the first of two deadlines for produce safety—the deadline for sprout farmers—already expired last year. The second one though is due on January 26, 2018. This deadline involves most other farms, which must comply with many new requirements under the produce safety rule.
Although FSMA regulations will be harder to repeal than regulations created by mere executive orders, the food and beverage industry overview for 2017 is certainly fraught with many uncertainties.
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