Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Health in reference to the Implementation of the Food Security Provisions of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, a spokesman for the International Foodservice Distributors Association, "the FDA's implementation of the food provisions of the 2002 law has gone much more smoothly than expected, but the foodservice industry remains concerned about the upcoming FDA record keeping rule."
David French, senior vice president of government of the Falls Church, VA-based association, pointed out that the industry is troubled about language in the proposed rule that suggests that lot numbers would be used to track products."
"This will result in costly and unnecessary changes to distributor information systems without any significant improvements in the speed or efficiency of recalls. IFDA is also concerned that FDA's proposed rule does not allow firms a reasonable amount of time to produce records in the event of an investigation," French said.
The Bioterrorism Act requires food firms to maintain records of their transactions for some time and to make them available to FDA in its efforts to trace back and forward investigations. French indicated that on the surface this is a reasonable requirement inasmuch as foodservice distributors usually keep for at least two years.
"Unfortunately, rather than building on the existing systems that food companies employ to keep track of product and to conduct recalls, the FDA proposed a rigidly bureaucratic and one-size-fits-all rule," French continued. "If key elements of the proposal find their way into the final rule, many of the companies in our industry will be facing multi-million dollar information system upgrades that will yield no significant improvement in the effectiveness of food investigations and recalls."
French said the seriousness of compliance is emphasized by civil and criminal liability that a company faces if it fails to maintain the required records or provide access to these records within the required time frame.
The IFDA spokesman suggested that the FDA give companies "considerable discretion" in determining a appropriate procedure. "Most distributors track food by purchase order number. All foods have a purchase order and purchase order number. If a manufacturer recalls a product or if it is necessary to trace a food shipment for any other reason, it is an easy matter to determine a purchase order number, trace the product, and remove it from commerce," French said.