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Navigating the Food Safety Modernization Act — Resources for State and Local Governments

posted on Wed, May 28 2014 2:49 pm by Mathew Swinburne

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) revolutionized food safety in the United States, changing how the federal government approaches foodborne illness by placing a new focus on our nation’s ability to prevent food contamination and poisoning, while strengthening our ability to respond to outbreaks. Signed into law in 2011, implementation of the FSMA continues today, with various stakeholders vigorously examining and debating the intricate details of the law and its regulations, while pushing for additional changes.

Any piece of legislation with such expansive health and economic implications will encounter challenges, and the heated dialog surrounding FSMA implementation has created a range of concerns that speak to the law’s complexity, including:

  • Why did the Center for Food Safety sue the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Office of Management and Budget over FSMA regulations?
  • Why are American Indian Tribes upset with the FDA’s proposed FSMA regulations?
  • Why are some food industry attorneys concerned by the increased access to records granted by the FSMA?
  • Why are the new agricultural water standards creating controversy? 
  • How will the FDA pay for the massive changes required by the FSMA?
  • Why are the FSMA’s new regulations for manure and compost application generating apprehension among farmers?
  • How does FSMA protect food industry whistleblowers?


The FSMA also affects state and local governments in a number of ways, including creating new responsibilities for authorities working with the FDA, and providing new resources to food safety authorities.

The Network has developed a series of primers to help state and local governments deal with regulatory questions, and better understand the components of the FSMA that impact their work. The Food Safety Modernization Act Primers explain provisions of FSMA that address key topics including: food facility registration requirements, produce safety standards, mandatory recall authority, inspection schedules, and imported food safety. In addition, the primers provide links to supplementary resources to facilitate further research into the complex issues surrounding the FSMA.

Three primers are currently available on the Network website, and each month a new primer will be posted. Also, since the effects of the FSMA will continue to develop as regulations are promulgated and funds are appropriated for FSMA’s many initiatives, the Network will update existing primers to reflect the newest developments.

If you have any additional questions regarding the FSMA or food safety in general, please contact the Network’s Eastern Region by email at Get Technical Assistance or by phone at 410-706-5575.

This blog post was developed by Mathew Swinburne, Staff Attorney, Network for Public Health Law–Eastern Region at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. 

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state. This blog post does not represent the views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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