J. Mark Huffman
FDA has moved a step closer to tightening record-keeping standards for the food industry. The agency has issued its final rule on record-keeping as part of its increased authority under the Biosecurity Act, passed by Congress in 2002. The regulation requires manufacturers, processors, packers, distributors, receivers, holders and importers of food to keep specific records on their suppliers and customers, to make it easier to trace any questionable product as it moves through the food chain. The rule may impact some sectors of the food industry more than others.

"Our initial review indicates that FDA addressed several concerns we had with its proposed rule on record keeping, but we're still analyzing this lengthy final rule," said Clay Detlefsen, vice president of regulatory affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association. It appears large companies will feel the impact more than smaller firms. For example, companies with 500 or more full-time employees have just one year, until December 9 to comply with the new regulation. Companies with between eleven and 499 full time employees must be in compliance within 18 months. Very small companies, with ten or fewer employees, will have two years to comply.

USDA has finalized a new rule incorporating changes to laws covering school milk into the department's regulations. In particular, the new USDA regulation drops the requirement that schools must provide the same types of milk that were offered during the previous school year. Lobbyists for both producers and processors strongly supported the change, pointing out that the current regulation prevents a school from offering new milk products that students might like. The new rule takes effect July 1.