Perspectives: FSMA’s Impact on the International Market

AIB UPDATE - Departments

December 11, 2015

Is FSMA impacting the global market as much now as it will when the rules are finalized?

I cover a very wide geographical area in the course of my job, and it is very interesting to see the varied approaches to and interest in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the ramifications that will occur. Many companies who have done business with the United States for many years or are part of a U.S. company are well prepared and ready to deal with FSMA’s requirements.

I hear and read a lot from U.S. colleagues that FSMA is the biggest change in U.S. food regulations since the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938. However, as I travel through Europe, Africa, and Asia, it seems as though many international suppliers to the U.S. have not yet grasped the fact that they will need to adhere to the far-reaching implications of the foreign supplier verification program (FSVP) required by FSMA. Therefore, at this moment in time, FSMA does not seem to be greatly affecting the market in many countries. But it will in a big way next year, and some facilities could be in for a very big surprise.

Another surprise to me is that many food industry workers outside of the U.S. have not heard about the new legislation, and are totally unaware of FSMA and how it could impact their business. Some facilities are surprised to learn that FDA has the authority to inspect foreign establishments, such as factories and warehouses, and that if they refuse an FDA inspection their product will be refused entry into the U.S. Foreign companies that need to prepare for FSVP and already have strong food safety systems in place with detailed documentation still need to be prepared for the physical inspection approach that FSMA requires.

Another aspect worth noting is that food defense needs to be part of a facility’s programs. Again, many companies outside the U.S. are not aware of how important this is; and many have done very little in preparation in terms of establishing programs to safeguard the security of a company and protect against intentional contamination. It is unusual to find companies that have carried out vulnerability assessments unless they are seasoned exporters to the U.S., are part of a U.S. multinational, or have regular third-party audits.

As other countries’ food standards agencies raise the bar for local and importing facilities, they will begin bringing in more stringent legislation. It is always important to prepare, seek sound advice, and conduct the necessary research. Hopefully the word about FSMA’s impact will be spread far and wide, and all facilities that need to undertake the foreign supplier verification program will be fully prepared and ready to fulfill the requirements.


The author is senior director, client development, AIB International.