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    GMA Spotlights Food Safety Initiatives

    The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) yesterday drew attention to three private-sector initiatives aimed at improving the safety and security of the U.S. food supply.

    The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) yesterday drew attention to three private-sector initiatives aimed at improving the safety and security of the U.S. food supply. The initiatives are outlined in “Prevention, Partnership and Planning: Supply Chain Initiatives to Improve Food Safety,” which can be viewed at www.gmaonline.org/publicpolicy/docs/foodsafety/GMASupplyChainBroch.pdf

    The initiatives are:

    -- Product Recall Modernization: The Food Marketing Institute and GS1-US, with the support of GMA, have developed and launched a Web-based product recall portal that facilitates the fast and accurate flow of information between manufacturers and retailers during product recalls. Enhanced communication ensures that recalled products are removed from the marketplace as soon as possible. GMA will work with FMI and GS1-US to expand the use and capability of the recall communication tool.

    “We have seen how critical clear and rapid communication about product recalls and withdrawals will be to protecting America’s consumers,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO at FMI. “We welcome GMA’s support of the FMI Product Recall Portal as it is now more important than ever that the food industry collaborate on providing accurate, reliable and standardized recall information.”

    --Accredited Third Party Food Safety Audit Certification: To ensure rigor and integrity in third-party certification, policymakers and industry leaders should urge the engagement of auditors employed by certification bodies accredited to international standards by recognized organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). In addition, GMA is working with other public and private partners, including FMI, to speed the implementation and recognition of certification systems. By upping the number of well-qualified auditors and developing universal food safety auditing criteria, industry leaders and policymakers will ensure that auditors are competent to review a particular facility, discourage duplicative audits, reduce auditing costs and encourage wider use of third-party certification/audits throughout the food industry. Ultimately, wider use of third-party certification/audits will lower the risk of food-borne illnesses.

    --Modernization and Implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for Food: FDA is currently updating and issuing its GMPs for food. GMA will provide industry-wide training and education to ensure rapid and widespread adoption of the new and updated GMPs.

    “The food industry is ultimately responsible for the safety of its products,” noted GMA president and CEO Pamela G. Bailey. “We take that responsibility very seriously and want our consumers and policymakers to know that we are vigilant when it comes to product safety and consumer protection. We are stepping up to the plate, taking responsibility and developing innovative reforms to improve the safety of our products.”

    Bailey added that the trade group was encouraged by Congress’ and the Obama administration’s stance on food safety, and observed that in combination “with quick enactment of the necessary legislative and regulatory reforms, these initiatives should significantly reduce the number and type of food recalls we have seen in recent years and strengthen our overall food safety system.”

    According to Bailey, GMA is also “developing enhanced food safety education and training for member and non-member companies, assessing and enhancing our crisis management capability, and expanding our ability to communicate directly with consumers during product recalls to ensure industry is doing its part to protect consumers. We are working with stakeholders from the entire supply chain to develop comprehensive and meaningful food safety solutions that will improve food safety and consumer confidence.”

    “Prevention, Partnership and Planning” is the third in a series of food industry proposals and initiatives designed to improve the safety and security of the food supply by preventing problems before they arise and employing private sector expertise to respond effectively to future incidents. In the fall of 2007, the organization unveiled its “Commitment to Consumers: The Four Pillars of Imported Food Safety,” which was designed to improve the safety of imported food and food ingredients. In January 2009, GMA rolled out its food safety legislative reforms for the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress.

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