The wizard, or guidance system, was put together by a team with Registrar Corp and is available free for farmers and animal feed manufactures, said Bracey Parr, regulatory analyst.
The system was released last week and attempts to capture both the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) law and the associated rules published by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and render them in plain language.
“We’re trying to give people an easy to use tool [with] yes or no questions in simple English, so they can see what the requirements are,” he told FeedNavigator.
The interactive site covers the main conditions and exemptions that would apply to farms, feed manufacturers and food producers, he said. The tool was not aimed at a particular group, but one goal was to reach smaller or medium-sized producers so they will be able to educate themselves.
“What I had in mind was a Turbo Tax [-like product], something that takes a complex regulation and makes it into bite-sized pieces, understandable pieces,” said Parr.
The tool works by having the farm, producer or importer enter basic data about the company size and the actions taken or work done at the facility. The tool then provides information about what requirements may apply to that facility and what exemptions exist for the site.
When completed the process also emails the user a summary of the findings: “Not only does it take you through everything, but at the end it gives you a compliance report of what your requirements under FSMA are,” said Parr.
The tool was released prior to the September start date for the rules that apply to larger companies, said Parr. “They have the time to use the wizard [before regulations take effect],” he added.
Rules on the feed may be slightly clearer or less complicated than the ones that address human food, he said. But the company is planning around potential questions from US-based importers regarding regulations and exemptions that apply to “mixed facilities,” or farms that also have on-site processing facilities.
“Facilities that process, pack or hold food on that farm they have a range of exemptions and modified requirements - that’s where I anticipate the majority of question on animal food," said Parr.
Trigger for tool
The system took several months to design, he said. But analysis of the rules and regulations started well before that.
“We work with around 19,000 food facilities world-wide and we intended it to be for them, but we realized in doing this and [hosting] webinars and seminars and consulates where we speak, there is so much confusion and misinformation,” he said. Thus, a decision was made to share the tool publically.
Additionally, there is set to be more information added regarding specifics of working with food defense regulations and the tool will be translated into other languages.
So far several hundred people have accessed the online system, he said.
The FDA said the Food Safety Modernization Act looks to update practices and management of animal feed from a food safety standpoint. It focuses efforts on preventive controls to encourage industry to anticipate problems and hazards before they happen and planning for them.
For animal food manufactures, the rules set a series of current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) that look to ensure feed safety in production, handling and transportation. The FSMA animal feed rule also establishes CGMPs for when a by-product has to be further processed before it is used in feed.
Some facilities also will need to have a hazard analysis to check for potential problems or contaminants that could be introduced and that might need a preventive control, according to the FDA.