Our team at FoodDocs has encountered many different “interpretations” of how the most famous food safety program is spelled (and pronounced).
Why are food regulations important?
Food safety regulations are sets of government mandates that control all procedures in the entire food chain to ensure ...
- Food safety regulations are sets of government mandates that control all procedures in the entire food chain to ensure the production process of safe food.
- Food safety laws apply to suppliers, producers, and customers.
- Food safety laws and regulations help protect consumers from deceptive and dangerous acts that can lead to any foodborne illness.
If there is one thing that keeps the food industry together and upholds the importance of food safety, it would the collection of food safety regulations. With every part of the food supply chain being vulnerable to food safety hazards, the impact of food safety regulations and laws creates an environment where all participants of the chain are protected from food safety issues. In this article, we will share why are food regulations important for any food business owner and how do they keep the whole food supply chain afloat.
The food industry is composed of many different parties that work together to bring safe and quality foods to every consumer's table. With the expanded efforts of the food industry to deliver food products to farther places through globalization, more food safety risks are introduced into the food supply chain. Considering all the many factors at play in the food industry, it almost seems impossible to have adequate control over everything. This is one of the many reasons why food safety regulations are very important.
Learn more about food safety regulations and the food agencies concerned in making and implementing these laws from this article.
WHAT WE'LL COVER:
- What is food regulation?
- Food safety laws and regulations
- Why are food regulations important?
- What agencies implement food safety laws?
- Consequences of non-compliance with food safety laws
- Where to find more information about food safety laws?
- Food safety compliance with digital FSMS
What is food regulation?
A food regulation refers to the laws and administrative rules that regulate all aspects of the food supply chain including supply, production, and distribution of food products to protect and maintain food safety. Food regulation involves the establishment of minimum standards and food safety requirements for food quality and safety. They also include proper and conventional practices for food safety to achieve federal standards and food safety outcomes. Food regulations are often carried out through any food protection program that involves strategies for food safety, corrective actions, and proper response to food complaints.
Standardized food safety protocols from food regulations apply to all participants of the food supply chain. Specific laws and regulations are established for each member of the supply chain to prevent the occurrence of poor food safety issues. They are either established as guides for producing safe food products or as standardized risk management procedures against a real threat of unlawful acts that may harm public health. Additionally, it promotes fair food trade among international and domestic food service establishments and consumers.
With the rapid globalization of the food industry, more food safety risks are introduced into the food supply chain. In addition to the many new food safety risks that could potentially be introduced to the supply chain, any food product is subject to more complex food laws. Every country may have its existing food laws that aim to protect its economy and food supply.
Food safety regulations also lay standards for the importation of foods to protect the economy and consumers of a nation. Importing foreign food products to a nation's domestic food supply chain may also introduce risks of foodborne contamination. An example of this incidence is reported by the USDA. In the report, at least 22,300 total microbial food safety hazard-related violations occurred from 2002 to 2019 in the US which were related to imported seafood products.
Although food agencies release such reports, they do not necessarily reach the consumers instantly. It is the many sets of food safety regulations that keep these consumers safe from all types of potentially harmful factors in the food industry. Certain provisions in food safety regulations ensure that the products in the food market are safe for consumption.
Food safety laws and regulations
The protection of consumers is in the hands of the vast majority of food safety laws and regulations. Any food law is built over hours and hours of investigation, research, and food safety analysis of past events.
On the one hand, some laws are built over particular events that may have caused significant disturbances in a community. Such is the case in the history of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and its establishment. On the other hand, some laws have been established as an effective response and food defense solution to the increasing cases of foodborne illnesses and other food safety issues such as acts of food terrorism. This is how the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 was established.
The nationwide food safety policy for any food producer may also vary because of the diversity that the products and the resources in every country have. Different countries may have their own interpretations of food laws and regulations. Some laws from one country may not apply to the other. Despite this, their main objective is collectively similar which is to protect the interest and health of consumers. Food safety laws are in place that covers aspects of supply, trade, manufacture, and food distribution.
What are the most important US food regulations?
In the US, the food industry is subdivided into five different sectors and is each provided with specific sets of food laws. These sectors include the following:
- Agricultural production input
- Agricultural production
- Food processing and labeling
- Retail stores and food services (including mobile food units)
There are hundreds of federal regulations in effect in the US. Some of the most significant ones include:
- Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act; 21 U.S.C. 9). A federal law was established in 1938 to regulate the manufacture of cosmetics, food products, drugs, and medical equipment. Additionally, it also implements food label policies for the mentioned products. The main objective of this law is to prevent the manufacture and release of misbranded and unsafe food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics to the market.
- Sanitary Food Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 57). This law involves regulatory control over sanitary standards and sets of food safety guidelines for any logistics and food storage warehouses that handles human and animal food. It helps prevent any establishment of keeping unsanitary conditions that may lead to any foodborne disease.
- Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C.). This law gives the Federal Trade Commission the authority to probe questionable acts in the economy, including the food industry, which may involve unfair competition or deceptive operations.
- Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. This law is the most recent reform in the federal government's approach to food safety. The FSMA includes 7 major rules for more efficient and effective control of food safety. The inception of this law came as the regulatory response efforts to change the focus of food businesses from solving food safety challenges to preventing them from happening.
Why are food regulations important?
Uniform food safety regulations are essential parts of the food industry as they protect consumers from any potential food safety issues. Food regulations affect suppliers, food processors, logistics, and consumers all at the same time. They provide food safety guidelines to prevent the occurrence of any food safety issue that may put any life in danger. At the same time, food safety regulations are present to help food businesses produce safe foods while allowing them to continue trade nationally and globally.
Specifically, food regulations can serve to fulfill the following benefits:
- Prevention of food safety concerns. As part of the main principles of food safety regulation, mandates such as the establishment of standardized risk management procedures such as HACCP or a risk-based analysis and preventive systems such as the Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) in the United States are present. Both systems layout preventive control measures that regulate food safety operations to help in establishing an effective quality assurance program for food processors in the food industry. They are government mandates that aim to address the sources of any health hazard to prevent any further food safety concerns from occurring. In turn, food businesses operate without further delays from food safety issues.
- Preservation of food security. Food security refers to the access of consumers to a safe and abundant food supply at all times. This strive is affected by many different factors such as population growth, demand for food, current supply, and others. The correct and uninterrupted implementation of food safety regulations ensures that the objectives of food security are met. This solves the problem of the low-income and food insecure population. This is most evident when it comes to importing foods from other countries to sustain national demand.
Food safety regulations such as the FSMA ensure that any type of food product coming from outside the US will not negatively affect public health and may be used by the general consumer. Additionally, food laws also regulate food handling operations from the farm level to the table to ensure that foods will reach the consumers and that wastage and foodborne contamination are kept at a minimum.
- Protection against deceptive practices. In addition to safety, food laws also ensure that consumers will get the products that they need as to how food manufacturers advertise them. Laws relating to adulteration, misbranding, and counterfeits in food are stated in several federal laws such as the 21 U.S.C. 331 or the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Such laws consider the declaration of wrong information such as weight, nutritional information, and wrong ingredients as a federal offense. It also includes prohibitions against the adulteration or intentional contamination of foods that can be harmful to uninformed consumers.
With the wrong information, consumers may be at risk of consuming unsafe ingredients. Additionally, wrong information may also lead consumers to think that they are purchasing particular values added to products when there is none. Uniform food safety regulations provide standardized food safety protocols for such situations to help consumers make better and informed decisions.
- Improve consumers' way of living and economic well-being. Food safety regulations serve as figurative safeguards for consumers against different problems that they may not see. When consumers buy products, they do not get a sense of what the product has gone through. It is the role of food safety regulations and laws to ensure every product on the market shelf is safe and that consumers do not have to worry about getting sick. In case of a food safety breach, appropriate federal food safety laws are in place to provide sanctions to involved food establishments and control measures such as recalls.
Like any other law, food safety regulations and laws are not absolute. They cannot ensure that foodborne hazards and malpractices are 100% eliminated from the whole food industry. This is where the role of food businesses comes into play. Consistent compliance must always be practiced and monitored at all times.
To ensure that your food business is compliant with the most relevant federal food safety laws, your team must establish a seamless food safety system. At FoodDocs, this is what we specialize in. Our digital Food Safety Management System is powered with artificial intelligence to automatically generate a fast and complete FSMS that is specifically fit for your food business. You can maintain compliance with our digital monitoring forms paired with a smart notification system to remind you about important food safety tasks.
What agencies implement food safety laws?
Similar to any other industry, laws are created and implemented by governing bodies. In the US, there are at least a dozen levels of government agencies that constitute the food defense system. Among the federal agencies, three are known to play key roles in implementing food service regulations and standards, conducting research, and providing sanctions for non-compliance.
The three major federal agencies among the multitude of agencies involved in food safety in the US are:
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
This federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services mainly has the authority over the safety of processed food commodities. It focuses on ensuring that all commercial food products are made under the safest and most secure conditions and are within the correct food labeling threshold. The Food and Drug Administration regulates federal standards on processing and mandates the implementation of preventive measures. The regulated measures include the FDA modernized Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls for food production and other food protection programs.
This regulatory agency also conducts testing of food samples to ensure the safety of food commodities from chemical contaminants and microbial threats. The foundation of the responsibilities and activities of the FDA are based on scientific knowledge and research. The FDA is also in charge of regulating interstate commerce except for products under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) which includes meat and poultry food products. Interstate commerce refers to the transportation or shipment of foods across the borders of a nation.
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
As a branch of the USDA, this regulatory agency is responsible for regulating and conducting risk assessments on the national supply of raw meat, poultry product, eggs, and related products. In relation to the safety of these products, the USDA FSIS conducts on-site food inspections, such as a meat inspection program, to ensure their compliance with food safety laws. They are also concerned with commercial food labeling and ingredient declaration of products containing meat and poultry products.
At the onset of establishing HACCP, the USDA FSIS published the landmark rules for the international and domestic meat and poultry product industries. Along with the HACCP rule, the USDA FSIS identified its responsibility to set food safety standards and programs for the strict implementation of the food safety system.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Unlike the two previous federal agencies, the CDC is more involved in preventing foodborne illnesses as a result of consuming domestic foods or international food commodities. This federal agency works in with the FDA and USDA FSIS to contain incidents of food safety challenges such as a foodborne disease outbreak or any severe illness. Similarly, the CDC continuously performs strategic food safety inspection processes, risk assessments, diagnostic procedures, and surveillance for food safety issues to improve the industry's response to adverse health problems.
Aside from these mentioned regulatory authorities, other federal agencies such as the NOAA Seafood Inspection Program, Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Customs and Border Protection are involved in food safety. In some cases, some food establishments are known to have dual jurisdiction when they produce products that are regulated by two different agencies.
Additionally, every state in the US has its state agency or local health department with public health officials who are responsible for the immediate response and risk assessments regarding food safety challenges. These local statutory authorities are also responsible for launching regulatory programs or any food protection program and food safety training for every community under agency jurisdiction about food safety.
Collectively, these federal agencies are concerned with the implementation of any food safety legislation as well as containing any food safety issue that happens under their jurisdiction.
Consequences of non-compliance with food safety laws
Food safety laws are mandatory, that is a given. This also means that non-compliance with these laws will merit consequences imposed by food safety agencies. Depending on the degree of offense as well as the concerned food safety law, responses from food safety agencies may vary from a written warning to the complete closure of your food establishment. Severe sanctions are given to food establishments proven to have blatantly ignored significant food safety laws.
Other consequences of non-compliance that may be imposed or encouraged by federal agencies may include:
- Written food safety alert with a request for corrective actions
- Temporary closure of food business
- Product recalls
- Non-compliance litigation and fines
- Criminal prosecution and/ or imprisonment
- Suspension of food business license
In addition to these legal sanctions, other repercussions that can arise as a result of being involved with food safety issues may include negative publicity and losing customer confidence. Although not directly caused by the sanctions, these effects can result from food safety issues. Consumers are less likely to buy your products and services when reports of issues reach food safety news.
Where to find more information about food safety laws?
Food safety laws and regulations are available for public viewing on official food safety agency websites. A copy of the US FDA Food Code of 2017 is available online for over 3000 food safety information on regulatory policies. This document contains uniform food safety resources on regulations for operations that provide food directly to consumers. For more detailed information about food safety laws and regulations, visit the following food safety resources:
- US Food and Drug Administration
- US Department of Agriculture
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In addition, academic websites such as the North Dakota State University and Michigan State University offer educational materials regarding US food laws. Remember that as your team's commitment to food safety, you are required to have sufficient food literacy and implement these food safety laws in your everyday operations. As part of active managerial control, it is the responsibility of a food safety manager to train and equip every food handler under their care with the necessary education about food safety and the related laws.
Food safety compliance with digital FSMS
Simply knowing why are food regulations important is not enough. Monitoring procedures are part of any mandatory food safety regulation to maintain compliance with food service regulations. Everyday implementation and assurance of compliance ensure that all cooked foods and processed products that your establishment produces are safe and will not negatively affect human health.
As part of the federal government mandate for every food business operator to implement an FSMS in their food establishment and the globalization of the food industry, your food establishment may be at a disadvantage if you are still working with a traditional FSMS. To help you stay compliant every day while staying up to date with the most recent amendments to food safety laws, we are inviting you to switch to our digital Food Safety Management System.
Powered by artificial intelligence, our digital FSMS product can automatically generate a comprehensive and seamless food safety system specifically fit for your everyday operations. Our system uses the information you provide us by answering questions about your food safety operations. In just an average of 15 minutes, you can already implement your digital FSMS and increase your team's efficiency.
Questions related to your food business for a digital FSMS
Using our digital FSMS, you can get the following features:
- Digital monitoring forms that are specific to your food safety operations. These forms come with the auto-fill feature that can save your employees' time from filling them up. Our system will use your previously logged information and will only need verification.
- A smart notification system that can help ensure that all food safety tasks are done on time. Using our flexible mobile food safety app, the system will send intuitive notifications to concerned employees to remind the food safety task to be done.
- Real-time dashboard where you can assess your daily operations and can help you save 20% of your time from micromanaging all your food safety operations. Use this feature to identify which areas of your food business need improvement or urgent attention.
- Cloud storage for all of your digital documents which you can store and access at any convenient time.
Our digital FSMS can significantly help you stay compliant with the most significant food safety laws as we help you monitor and ensure that all food safety operations are done correctly. In addition, our system can also provide you with an efficient traceability system in case of any food safety complaints.
Built with the help of food safety experts who have been in the industry for several years, our digital FSMS at FoodDocs can become your gateway to food safety compliance. With very simple steps, you can get a comprehensive FSMS. Are you still considering if you should commit to a whole new platform? At FoodDocs, we offer a free, 14-day trial which you can use to test our system features yourself.