Importance of getting food safety right

by Josh Sosland
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 For the past three years, the baking industry has pursued an exemption to rules governing food safety protocols at production facilities. For good reason, bakers suggested that warehouses, where baked foods are briefly stored, should not be subjected to the full food safety requirements that have been created for baking plants and other food manufacturing facilities. The bakery warehouse exemption was first sought in a petition in 2012, was tentatively granted a year later and was finalized in rules recently published in the Federal Register.

The exemption was part of rulemaking associated with the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Department of Health and Human Services said the law is intended to “better protect public health by, among other things, adopting a modern, preventive, and risk-based approach to food safety regulation.” Even with the exemption, bakers have good cause to fear the regulatory burden that will be part of the F.S.M.A.

Still, against this backdrop another development last week offers important perspective. Stewart Parnell, the former owner of Peanut Corporation of America, was sentenced to 28 years in prison over a deadly outbreak of Salmonella blamed on unsanitary conditions at the P.C.A. plant. The outbreak left nine people dead and diminished public confidence in food safety. The episode hurt many other businesses, including a number of grain-based foods companies that did not purchase product from P.C.A. It serves as a sober reminder of the importance of “getting food safety right.”

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