G.M.A. outlines initiatives to bolster food safety

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Product recall modernization, accredited third-party food safety audit certification and modernization and implementation of good manufacturing practices (G.M.P.s) for food were highlighted by the Grocery Manufacturers Association as private sector initiatives that will be necessary to improve the safety and security of the U.S. food supply.

The initiatives were outlined in "Prevention, Partnership and Planning: Supply Chain Initiatives to Improve Food Safety," the third in a series of food industry proposals and initiatives put forth by the G.M.A. to improve the safety and security of the food supply by preventing problems before they arise.

"The food industry is ultimately responsible for the safety of its products," said Pamela G. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A. "We take that responsibility very seriously and want our consumers and policymakers to know that we are vigilant when it comes to product safety and consumer protection. We are stepping up to the plate, taking responsibility and developing innovative reforms to improve the safety of our products.

"We are pleased by the commitment of Congress and the Obama administration to enact food safety reforms and strengthen F.D.A.’s food safety capabilities. Combined with quick enactment of the necessary legislative and regulatory reforms, these initiatives should significantly reduce the number and type of food recalls we have seen in recent years and strengthen our overall food safety system."

As part of the first initiative, product recall modernization, the G.M.A. teamed with the Food Marketing Institute and GS1 US to launch a centralized, electronic, Internet-based platform for manufacturers to upload comprehensive information about recalled products that is accessible to all participating retailers. The groups also have formed a Recall Working Group that uses cross functional industry experts to identify model practices in crisis planning, product removal, product destruction and product replacement.

Through its second initiative, accredited third-party food safety certification, the G.M.A. said it is working with other public and private partners, including the F.M.I., to progress the implementation and recognition of certification systems.

"By increasing the number of well-qualified auditors and developing universal food safety auditing criteria, industry leaders and policymakers will ensure that auditors are competent to review a particular facility, discourage duplicative audits, reduce auditing costs, and encourage wider use of third-party certification/audits throughout the food industry," the G.M.A. said. "Ultimately, wider use of third-party certification/audits will reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses."

Finally, the G.M.A. said through its third initiative it will provide industry-wide training and education to ensure rapid and widespread adoption of new and updated G.M.P.s. According to the G.M.A., G.M.P.s were last updated in June 1986, before allergens and Listeria monocytogenes were concerns in the food industry.

The full report may be accessed at www.gmabrands.com.

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