Ready or Not

Published in the November 2011 Issue Published online: Nov 03, 2011 Tyler J. Baum

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama in January, has taken effect.

Ready or not.

On May 4, the FDA issued an interim final rule that will allow the agency to detain on its own administrative authority food and feed products it believes are adulterated or misbranded. Previously, FDA's ability to administratively detain food products for humans or animals applied only when the agency had credible evidence that the food or feed presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.

With this expanded administrative detention authority, FDA will be able to detain food and feed products that it has reason to believe are adulterated or misbranded, for up to 30 days, if needed, to ensure they are kept out of the marketplace while the agency determines whether an enforcement action may be required, such as seizure of products or federal injunction against a firm.

Despite that Orwellian possibility, in this issue we have an article about a traceback system called ScoringAg. The system, seven years ahead of its time, was made possible by a Michigan potato grower named William Kanitz. With the help of ScoringAg, a grower can trace back anything and everything-whether food, feed, ingredients or beverages, for man or animal-to comply with the FSMA. In the event of a produce recall, damage to the grower and the industry would be minimal-limited to a single field rather than an entire storage unit or region.

However, Kanitz watched as July 3-the day FSMA actually took effect-came and went, with very few in the industry (or even produce as a whole) seemingly aware of its coming.

"What I worry about is that a lot of potato growers aren't even collecting the necessary data. They've got to sell their potatoes after they store them, and it probably would've been better if they would've had the information early," he says.

Many don't fully grasp the reality that the law has really happened-and people like me have dropped the ball in letting growers know-but that doesn't mean it's not in effect.

He says, "Get your dang potatoes labeled. Have your traceback down to the field where you're harvesting, because if there is a potato problem, at least yours will still be on the market."

Ready or not, here it is.

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