President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act into law on January 4, 2011.

Key provisions of the new law include:

  • Issuing recalls: FDA will have the authority to order a recall of food products. Until this Act, the FDA has had to rely on food manufacturers and distributors to recall​​ food voluntarily, with the exception of infant formula.
  • Conducting inspections: The law calls for more frequent facility inspections and for those inspections to be based on risk. Foods and facilities that pose a greater risk to food safety will get the most regulatory attention.
  • Importing food: The law provides significant enhancements to FDA's ability to oversee food produced in foreign countries and imported into the United States. The law provides FDA with the authority to prevent food from entering this country if the facility has refused U.S. inspection.
  • Preventing problems: Food facilities must have a detailed written plan that spells out the potential problems that could affect the safety of their food products. These plans would outline steps that facilities would take to prevent those problems from occurring.
  • Focusing on science and risk: The law establishes science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. These standards will consider both natural and man-made risks to the safety of fresh produce.
  • Respecting the role of small businesses and farms: The law also provides few exemptions from the produce safety standards for small farms that sell directly to consumers at a roadside stand or farmer’s market as well as through a community supported agriculture program (CSA).

Important note about the Act

  • Some of the changes from the law went into effect immediately, such as the new mandatory recall authority. Other changes will require more time, some based upon budget allowances.

Key points for accredited labs

  • The Act highlights the importance of building the capacity of state, local, territorial and tribal food safety programs.
  • The law directs the Secretary to improve training of state, local, territorial and tribal food safety officials and authorizes grants for training, conducting inspections, building capacity of labs and food safety programs, and other food safety activities.
  • The Act highlights the usage of FERN labs.
  • The Food Emergency​​​​ Response Network (FERN) integrates the nation's foodtesting laboratories at the local, state, and federal levels into a network able to respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical, or radiological contamination of food.