The most sweeping improvements to food safety laws in 70 years, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) aims to strengthen the safety of food Americans consume. As the nation’s second-most agriculturally diverse state, Michigan aims to continue its leadership in this arena.
The FSMA was signed into law in 2011 to increase food safety by focusing on food contamination prevention, rather than reacting to foodborne illness. The law affects everyone who handles a sizable amount of food, whether farmers, processors, handling facilities, truckers, feed manufacturers or food importers.
“Food is a trust business,” says Tim Slawinski, FSMA Unit supervisor for the Food and Dairy Division of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD). “If Michigan is a leader in complying with the provisions of the FSMA, we can help maintain and improve the trust level that people have in Michigan food products.”
The Food and Drug Administration’s implementation of this act requires staggered compliance over several years, with some of the earliest implemented in late 2016, Slawinski says. From a production standpoint, the law and its emerging final rules impact farms of certain gross sales and distribution areas.
Estimates show that 1,300 of Michigan’s 6,000 produce farms must comply with the law. Equally affected are Michigan’s food and feed processors, trucking companies and food importers.
Many local farms and food handlers already adopted some of the law’s outlined safety rules. For the first time, inspectors are required to visit farms, says Kevin Besey, director of the MDARD Food and Dairy Division. Michigan has a team of professionals working on food safety behind the scenes. About 600 people work in Michigan at the federal, state or local level to ensure food safety. That number may grow with full implementation of the FSMA.