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How the Food Safety Modernization Act Affects Wisconsin Manufacturers

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U.S. Department of Agriculture
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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Administrator Phil Karsting tours the DuPont Pioneer plant for the production of seeds in Santiago, Chile on Friday, Mar. 17, 2016. USDA photo by Sergio Pina.

The Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, is being touted as the most sweeping reform from the regulatory body in the last 70 years. This fall, the FDA will start enforcing some of the new regulations.

These regulations hold food manufacturers and suppliers to higher sanitary standards. The move is meant to shift the industry to a prevention model, instead of reacting to outbreaks caused by contaminated food.

“Instead of just being responsible for everything that happens in your facility, you’re also responsible for everything that happened before your materials got to your facility,” says Olivia Barrow, who has been covering the FSMA for the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The FDA introduced the act partly in response to some high-profile food contamination problems, including outbreaks of Listeria and Salmonella. Many of the new regulations seem like common-sense practices, and Barrow says that most large companies have been taking these kinds of precautions for years. The act was modeled after the Global Food Safety Initiative’s Food Safety System Certification, and many manufacturers already follow those guidelines.

So what does the FSMA mean for Wisconsin manufacturers?

“It really just means that there’s a new amount of documentation that each company has to go through,” says Barrow. “Some of them are going to have to change their practices. But for a lot of them it’s just going to be a huge new burden of paperwork.”

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.