5 things Wisconsin manufacturers should know about the Food Safety Modernization Act

New regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will begin to take effect in 2016 that could have a dramatic impact on food and beverage manufacturers in Wisconsin.

The FDA developed guidance late last year to go with a law passed in 2011 to hold food manufacturers and their suppliers to higher standards than ever before when it comes to preventing allergen contamination and bacterial outbreaks.

“It’s not just reacting when you have an issue, it’s preventing it from happening,” said Pat Werner, senior director of quality and compliance for Chr. Hansen, a supplier of cultures, dairy enzymes, natural colors and flavors with operations in West Allis.

Since the new regulations will impact many food and beverage manufacturers and suppliers in Wisconsin, FaB Wisconsin is holding three events to help educate businesses about the new requirements in 2016. The first event will be held March 16 at 8:30 a.m. at the University Club in downtown Milwaukee.

I spoke with Werner about the most important thing to know about the new requirements. Here are five takeaways.

1. How will the rule impact suppliers of food and beverage manufacturers?

“As a preventive control, you have to make sure you have control of your suppliers and raw materials. We get a lot of raw materials globally. Are our foreign suppliers producing to the same level we require? Some food companies may be shifting to try to use more U.S. suppliers if the foreign supplier does not comply.”

2. How does the rule impact training?

“You’re also required to make sure production workers have been trained on how to handle the equipment, food safety, allergen control, sanitation, environmental controls, etc., and this must be documented.”

3. If you already comply with the Global Food Safety Initiative’s Food Safety System Certification , how will this impact you?

“The FDA has aligned with the Global Food Safety Initiative. (At Chr. Hansen) we’ve been GFSI/FSCC certified since 2010. We were the third company in the U.S. Regarding FSMA, there are still a few things you’ll have to update, even if you’re already GFSI certified, but it’s not that significantly different from the GFSI standards.”

4. What new areas fall under regulation that were not as strictly controlled before?

“They’re also including animal products, things that had never been included before.”

5. Do you think it will hamper Wisconsin food and beverage companies’ ability to grow while they adapt to meet the regulations?

“I don’t think so. We have a lot of good food manufacturers in the Midwest and Wisconsin. The FSMA requirements have been out there for a while. You’ve gotten a four-year time frame to be compliant. Plus there’s still an additional one-, two- or three-year compliance timeline starting from this past September depending on the size of the business and product manufactured.”

Olivia Barrow, Milwaukee Business Journal

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