September 22, 2015

Do Small Food Businesses Face Increased Compliance Under The Food Safety & Modernization Act (FSMA)?

product recallIt’s a long title but it’s the question I’ve spent the last four days digging to try to figure out.  Earlier this month, the FDA came out with more formalized rules that are intended to make up the Food Safety & Modernization Act (FSMA) and in it they specifically called out both ‘small’ and ‘very small’ businesses with the later being those food businesses that make less than $1,000,000.   What I haven’t been able to determine is whether the uber-small businesses (those making less than $250,000) have any exemptions or if they are going to be required to comply with FSMA too.

The goal of FSMA is to create a stronger and safer food system and takes into account everything from how produce is handled on farms to the production and packaging of food and even, possibly, to how farmers’ markets operate.  In the earlier statement released by the FDA, they did note that very small businesses will have up to three years to comply with the new standards, that may include creating a hazard and safety plan, and the FDA plans to come out with clarified guidelines for very small businesses within the next year to 18 months.

Currently, the way it’s written and the way I understand it, some small businesses will be exempt from compliance if they make and sell their products in the same location.  So if you make your products in a commercial kitchen and sell it to someone walking by then you may not need to register your facility with the FDA.  If, however, you take your product and sell it at a farmers’ market then you may actually fall under these new laws.   At one point there was an amendment in FSMA that said that producers and farmers who earned less than $500,000 be exempt from this law but it seems as though in the current iteration of the bill released by the FDA that the amendment has been greatly watered down.

So where, ultimately, are the super small food businesses like yours going to stand?  Are you going to need to register your facility with the FDA?  Are you going to need to submit food safety plans?  Right now we seem to be in a wait and see situation until the FDA releases more information.

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