Food safety portal to provide guidance for industry

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Published on 06/16/2009 10:53am By Tom Karst


Produce and food companies will receive guidance on how they will use an online portal to alert the Food and Drug Administration on possible food safety problems.

The guidance, published June 11 in the Federal Register, will help food companies understand how to report food products that could make consumers ill. The online portal should open Sept. 8.

"They are a little late," said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del. Means said the registry was first outlined in a 2007 law - the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 - and was supposed to have been operational by September 2008.

Means said the registry - which is designed for companies that register with the FDA under the 2002 Bioterrorism Act - is an online communication system for food marketers to let the FDA know when food companies have had an incident related to food safety. The portal is not intended for food recalls, which are handled separately, and Means said not all food safety related incidents will need to be reported to the FDA.

"If you have control of the product, then you don't have to file this report," Means said. "It is only when it moves into commerce do you have to do something about it."

The FDA said a 45-day comment period is anticipated for the June 11 guidance, making July 27 the last day for comments.

"People will need to know that this exists and is a tool they can use and are expected to use," she said.

The online portal is for FDA use only and would not be open to the public, Means said.

Food safety legislation being considered in the House of Representatives may also include provisions for a reportable food registry, Means said. Currently, she said a food safety draft bill at the House Energy and Commerce Committee would ask farms, retailers, importers and restaurants to use the FDA registry.





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