The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced preventive measures to secure the food supply-chain by issuing a temporary policy for FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) supplier verification onsite audit requirements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, the administration announced on Tuesday.
"The policy released today will help to minimize disruptions so that the food industry can meet the demand while also continuing to conduct supplier verification activities that are designed to ensure food safety and following government travel restrictions and advisories,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D.
Three of the regulations created to implement FSMA, the Preventive Controls for Human Food (PC Human Food) rule, Preventive Controls for Animal Food (PC Animal Food) rule and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) rule, have required receiving facilities and importers to conduct supplier verification activities based on the hazard analysis conducted as part of the written Food Safety Plan or FSVP.
"While our grocery stores are facing unprecedented demand, we are working with industry to minimize disruptions in the supply-chain due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions," Hahn stated.
FDA noted that the travel restrictions and advisories associated with coronavirus, it may make some audits temporarily impractical to conduct. The policy announced has stated that the agency will temporarily not enforce FSMA supplier verification onsite audit requirements if other appropriate supplier verification methods are used instead.
Other supplier verification methods, including sampling and testing or a review of food safety records, would be designed to provide sufficient assurance that hazards have been significantly minimized or prevented during the period of onsite audit delay.
“While we are confident that stores will remain open and supply will continue to meet demand nationwide, we ask all Americans to only purchase enough food and essentials for the week ahead," Hahn added.
The FDA has projected that receiving facilities and FSVP importers will resume onsite audits within a reasonable period of time after it becomes practicable to do so, and update their food safety plans and FSVPs accordingly.
There are no nationwide shortages of food, although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock. Food production and manufacturing are dispersed throughout the U.S. and there are currently no wide-spread disruptions reported in the supply chain.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.