Editor's note: On Friday, Oct. 19, FDA announced that it would open its food facility registry system for renewals on Monday, Oct. 22. Full details are available here.

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, all food plants must register with the Food and Drug Administration, with renewals due in even-numbered years. But not this year, or at least, not just yet.

On Friday, Sept. 28, FDA announced that the FSMA biennial registration renewal will not be available. The normal window for this activity would have been Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. Registration was to be available online, by mail or fax.

“We will not be accepting food facility registration renewals,” FDA said in a statement, posted at the agency’s website, www.fda.gov. It urged operators of food facilities to stay abreast of developments and offered an email updates on FSMA programs.

“We believe this is a postponement rather than a retraction of the requirement,” said AIB International in an alert circulated Oct. 2.

Ed Steele, chairman of EAS Consulting Group, Alexandria, VA, and a specialist in regulatory matters, said, “I would not read too much into this technical snag because the agency is fully committed to implementing the program.”

The act, signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011, requires such registration from all food facilities — domestic and foreign — that manufacture, process, pack or hold food for human or animal consumption in the US. FDA issued a new draft guidance document in August that discussed the specifics of food facility registration, outlining the law’s requirements and food categories affected. Some of the law’s provisions also deal with requirements originally part of the Bioterrorism Act.

Proposed regulations implementing FSMA were to have been issued this past July but are still under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

FSMA has been described as the most sweeping change in the way the US food supply is regulated since original enactment of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938. It aims to ensure that the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.