In the United States, the passage of the FMSA of 2012 was an attempt to bridge gaps in food safety surveillance and response activities by mandating the implementation of new information processes and informatics tools that reduce both the scale and scope of a food contamination event—whether unintentional or intentional. Not only did the passage of FSMA serve as a milestone in food safety law in the United States that sets the stage for a “big data” approach to assuring food safety, it also fundamentally changed the landscape of stakeholders that play a role in assuring safe food.

The FSMA signaled the emergence of a new food safety stakeholder model in which the private and public sectors, as well as the consumer, assume new roles in meeting the challenge of safe food. While the public sector has traditionally been the guardian of food safety, increasingly private sector enterprises and the consumer are playing an important role. The private sector is being given more responsibility for recording and providing information about its processes, suppliers, and customers (when requested by the FDA). And consumers have more opportunity to provide information to regulatory agencies and private sector enterprises about the quality and safety of their food.

Under FSMA new responsibilities fall on private sector companies. Food manufacturers are required to register and to examine their processing systems to identify possible ways that food products can become contaminated and to develop detailed plans to keep that from occurring. Companies must share those plans with the FDA, and provide the agency with records, including product test results, showing how effectively they can carry them out. The FDA was mandated to work with private sector companies on pilot projects to develop traceability systems that strike a balance between protecting public health and preventing any undue burden to businesses.

Increasingly the consumer is also a key stakeholder in the system. Previously, the consumer has had limited direct input into the food safety system. Official laboratory reports of cases of foodborne illness typically take many days, or even weeks, to find their way into the food safety system. Increasingly, however, consumer input into the surveillance and response processes is occurring through new channels. “Complaint” hotlines to food retailers and to public agencies provide real-time signals of possible food- borne illness. Consumers also “blog” information related to food using social media and other emerging technologies. Harnessing these sources of realtime consumer information can be critical in reducing delays in detecting foodborne illness.

Fig. 5.1 presents the new food safety stakeholder model comprised of the food safety system’s four major stakeholders. They are: (1) a private sector that controls the production and commercialization of food products, the sale and distribution of potentially contaminated products, and participates in the recall of tainted products; (2) a public health system in charge of surveillance and management of outbreaks of disease caused by food contamination; (3) the governmental agencies pertaining to agricultural activities and the protection of the environment and natural resources, which regulate the production of food for human consumption by the agricultural and food

Food safety stakeholder model

FIGURE 5.1 Food safety stakeholder model.

manufacturing sectors, oversee the safe use of natural resources and the environmental and sanitary conditions of establishments offering food services, as well as monitor and assist in food recall efforts; and (4) consumers of food products.

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