Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rolled out a new way to head off potential cases of foodborne illness. The Reportable Food Registry (RFR) is a new tool that food industry officials must use to alert the FDA quickly — through an electronic portal — when they find their products might sicken or kill people or animals. The requirement, a result of legislation, took effect with the launch of the portal.

Facilities that manufacture, process or hold food for consumption in the United States now must tell the FDA within 24 hours if they find a reasonable probability that an article of food will cause severe health problems or death to a person or an animal.

The reporting requirement applies to all foods and animal feed regulated by the FDA, except infant formula and dietary supplements, which are covered by other regulatory requirements. Some examples of reasons a food may be reportable include bacterial contamination, allergen mislabeling or elevated levels of certain chemical components.

A media teleconference this morning discussed this new initiative. John Maday, associate editor of Drovers (sister publication to Dairy Herd Management)  asked if large livestock operations that store and mix their own feed rations would be obligated under this new rule to also report problems with the FDA. It was unclear whether the FDA representatives on the call understood the question — or they were aware that a large operation such as a feedlot or dairy may buy and store large quantities of different feedstuffs and ingredients to then mix into rations. They said farms per se are exempt from this rule, but manufacturers holding animal feeds are subject to the rule.

Meanwhile, the opening of the RFR electronic portal reflects a fundamental principle of the President’s Food Safety Working Group that “preventing harm to consumers is our first priority.”

"President Obama has pledged to strengthen food safety,” says Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg. “The opening of the Reportable Food Registry electronic portal represents a significant step toward that pledge.”

"By fostering real-time submission to the FDA of information on food safety hazards, the registry enhances FDA's ability to act quickly to prevent foodborne illness," adds Michael R. Taylor, senior advisor to the commissioner. "Working with the food industry, we can swiftly remove contaminated products from commerce and keep them out of consumers' hands."

The requirements apply to any person who has to submit registration information to the FDA for a food facility that manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food for human or animal consumption in the United States. These people are termed responsible parties.

A responsible party:

  1. Must investigate the cause of the adulteration if the adulteration of food may have originated with the responsible party.
  2. Must submit initial information; followed by supplemental reports.
  3. Must work with the FDA authorities to follow up as needed.

A responsible party is not required to report if it found the problem before the food was shipped, and corrected the problem or destroyed the food.

The agency issued draft guidance on the RFR in June and sought comment. The FDA also held three public workshops across the country in which FDA representatives explained the RFR requirements and how the portal will work. A Federal Register notice was issued today announcing the opening of the RFR electronic portal and the availability of final guidance to assist the food industry in complying with the requirements of the RFR.

Click here for more.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration