Exporters to US must plan ahead to meet FSMA requirements

EU manufacturers exporting to the US should consider adding a FSMA module to their next audit to ensure they meet requirements, according to FoodChain ID Certification.

FoodChain ID Certification was chosen by the BRC as a partner in the roll out of the voluntary module within the BRC Version 7 Global Standard relating to the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA). The firm will advise on the Food Defense Regulation that requires businesses to assess their risk to food fraud. FoodChain ID Certification said its experience in BRC audits across Europe and the US means it is well placed to understand the needs of food businesses supplying the US and requirements of the market in terms of food safety and legislation. Any European food or drink manufacturer supplying the US will also have to adhere to the rule. The new module can be added on to a BRC audit.

Opens up US markets

David Wolf, technical manager and BRC expert at FoodChain ID Certification, said FSMA opens up US markets in an easier way for European food and drink manufacturers than the current export process. “I think the EU will be affected greatly, people are not aware of how deep in the food chain the regulations go, for example colleagues went to a company to talk about it and they said it was ‘not applicable for us’…so forsome it will take them by shock. “The FSMA module bolts on to the standard. In essence it will take around one year or more for the BRC food chain to be compliant to FSMA. The FSMA module is available now and there is training for BRC auditors and registered certification bodies to provide the service.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalised the seventh and final rule under FSMA last month. The agency has visited Canada, China and Mexico in recent months to hold FSMA meetings with the public and regulatory agencies. It requires covered domestic and foreign facilities to complete and maintain a written food defense plan that assesses potential vulnerabilities to deliberate contamination. BRC Global Standards recently commissioned The Acheson Group (TAG) to assess the standard against the FSMA final rule with findings showing close alignment. The FDA estimates that more than 140,000 manufacturers worldwide will be affected by FSMA. FoodChain ID Certification Europe’s sister company Food Chain ID Europe is providing training on Food Defense and Vulnerability, which covers aspects of food fraud and defense in line with EU and US FDA regulations.

Benefits of opting in for voluntary module

When asked about it being a voluntary module, Wolf said it may be the case but firms will have to have it if they want to sell product to the US as there is no way around it. “The problem is for a new or an existing company who don’t sell to the US and they see a market opportunity to supply to the US. The voluntary module is incorporated into a BRC audit, so if you have that in March, then enter into the US in April or May for the first time and have not asked for the module you might have to wait…of course you could do another audit but it is costly. “Following horse meat, the UK market has been in­depth in the way it has gone about it, most companies have done a risk analysis of the supply chain including horizon scanning and geographical issues or problems that might occur so they are well prepared. “Big companies have more suppliers but if you are an artisan firm who works with the US a couple of times a year, if you have ingredients from a big company the amount of information from them could be limited which could be a stumbling block. “[My advice is] plan ahead, make sure you know the requirements you need most, have your supply base mapped out and if you are struggling it might be worth working together with other companies in the same situation.”

By Joe Whitworth for Food Quality News