(Washington, D.C.) The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) today highlighted three private sector initiatives that will improve the safety and security of the nation’s food supply.
“The food industry is ultimately responsible for the safety of its products,” said Pamela G. Bailey, GMA president and CEO. “We take that responsibility very seriously and want our consumers and policymakers to know that we are vigilant when it comes to product safety and consumer protection. We are stepping up to the plate, taking responsibility and developing innovative reforms to improve the safety of our products.
“We are pleased by the commitment of Congress and the Obama Administration to enact food safety reforms and strengthen FDA’s food safety capabilities. Combined with quick enactment of the necessary legislative and regulatory reforms, these initiatives should significantly reduce the number and type of food recalls we have seen in recent years and strengthen our overall food safety system.”
The initiatives are outlined in Prevention, Partnership and Planning: Supply Chain Initiatives to Improve Food Safety. They include:
1. Product Recall Modernization: The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and GS1US, with the support of GMA, have developed and launched an electronic, Web-based product recall portal that facilitates the rapid and accurate flow of information between manufacturers and retailers during product recalls. Enhanced communication ensures that recalled products are removed from the marketplace as quickly as possible. GMA will participate with FMI and GS1-US to expand the use and capability of this recall communication tool.
2. Accredited Third Party Food Safety Audit Certification: Third party audits are an important part of America’s food safety net. To ensure rigor and integrity in third party certification, policymakers and industry leaders should encourage the engagement of auditors employed by certification bodies accredited to international standards by recognized organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI is widely respected as the recognized accrediting body for conformity assessment systems in the United States, and recognized by the federal government as well as internationally for that role. In addition, GMA is working with other public and private partners, including FMI, to progress the implementation and recognition of certification systems. By increasing the number of well-qualified auditors and developing universal food safety auditing criteria, industry leaders and policymakers will ensure that auditors are competent to review a particular facility, discourage duplicative audits, reduce auditing costs, and encourage wider use of third party certification/audits throughout the food industry. Ultimately, wider use of third party certification/audits will reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
3. Modernization and Implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for Food: FDA is in the process of updating and issuing its Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) regulations for food, which are a critical component of our nation’s food safety system. The issuance of updated GMPs is essential and GMA will provide industry-wide training and education to ensure rapid and wide-spread adoption of the new and updated GMPs.
“In addition, we are developing enhanced food safety education and training for member and non-member companies, assessing and enhancing our crisis management capability and expanding our ability to communicate directly with consumers during product recalls to ensure industry is doing its part to protect consumers. We are working with stakeholders from the entire supply chain to develop comprehensive and meaningful food safety solutions that will improve food safety and consumer confidence,” concluded Ms. Bailey.
Prevention, Partnership and Planning is the third in a series of food industry proposals and initiatives designed to improve the safety and security of the food supply by preventing problems before they arise and utilizing private sector know-how to respond effectively to future incidents.
In the fall of 2007, the food industry unveiled its Commitment to Consumers: The Four Pillars of Imported Food Safety, designed to improve the safety of imported food and food ingredients. In January 2009, the industry announced its food safety legislative reforms for the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress.