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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a new way to head off potential cases of foodborne illness: the Reportable Food Registry (RFR), an electronic portal that food industry officials must now use to alert the agency when they find their products might sicken or kill people or animals. The requirement, a result of legislation, took effect with the launch of the portal.
Facilities that manufacture, process or hold food for consumption in the United States now must tell the FDA within 24 hours if they find a reasonable probability that an article of food will cause severe health problems or death to a person or an animal. The reporting requirement applies to all foods and animal feed regulated by the FDA, except for infant formula and dietary supplements, which are covered by other regulatory requirements. Some examples of reasons a food may be reportable include bacterial contamination, allergen mislabeling or elevated levels of certain chemical components.
The opening of the RFR electronic portal reflects a fundamental principle of the President’s Food Safety Working Group that “preventing harm to consumers is our first priority.”
Said FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg: “President Obama has pledged to strengthen food safety. The opening of the Reportable Food Registry electronic portal represents a significant step toward that pledge.”
By fostering real-time submission to the FDA of information on food safety hazards, the registry enhances FDA’s ability to act quickly to prevent foodborne illness, noted Hamburg, adding that the food industry “can swiftly remove contaminated products from commerce and keep them out of consumers’ hands.”
FMI commended FDA for launching that electronic portal and registry, which it said would “fulfill the congressional directive to track patterns of adulteration in food.”
“The agency’s electronic database should work well with the industry’s Rapid Recall Exchange,” remarked the trade group’s president, Leslie G. Sarasin. “This online initiative, set to be launched later this month, is designed to expedite supplier notification of food recalls to food retailers and wholesalers with more complete and accurate information.”
The requirements apply to any person who has to submit registration information to the FDA for a food facility that manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food for human or animal consumption in the United States. These people are termed responsible parties.
A responsible party:
--Must investigate the cause of the adulteration if the adulteration of food may have originated with the responsible party
--Must submit initial information, followed by supplemental reports
--Must work with the FDA authorities to follow up as needed
--Is not required to report if it found the problem before the food was shipped, and corrected the problem or destroyed the food
Having issued draft guidance and comments on the RFR in June, the FDA also held three public workshops across the country at which FDA representatives explained the RFR requirements and how the portal will work.
For more information, visit www.fda.gov/reportablefoodregistry.