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Dear Valued Customer,

The Food and Drug Administration will give the food industry 30 more days before it starts enforcing food facility registration requirements.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 calls for food facilities to renew registration with FDA every other year during the period beginning Oct. 1 and ending Dec. 31 of each even-numbered year.

The FDA on Dec. 12 said it will exercise “enforcement discretion” and not begin policing the registration requirement until Jan. 31.

“A number of associations reached out to FDA and asked, since they were delayed in starting the clock on registration, whether they would consider extending the clock as well, and they did,” said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association.

Because of FDA delays in fine-tuning the registration process, operators of food facilities were prevented from registering/re-registering with the FDA until Oct. 22, about three weeks after the expected start date.

Some of the new requirements for the registration process include providing the e-mail for the company’s point of contact and better describing what kind of food products are produced at the facility. The new food safety law also gives FDA the authority to suspend a food facility’s registration if the food from the company has a “reasonable probability” of causing serious health consequences or death. The FDA has already exercised that authority with peanut butter manufacturer Sunland Inc., in November following a foodborne disease outbreak linked to the firm.

Gombas stressed that the FDA’s discretionary enforcement doesn’t change the registration requirement but simply means that FDA won’t enforce the requirement for an extra month.

“Our advice is companies is not to let the extension delay their registration,” Gombas said.

There won’t be any changes to what is expected of companies in the registration process. Gombas said there continues to be uncertainty about when proposed food safety regulations related to the Food Safety Modernization Act will be released by the Office of Management and Budget. Widely expected to be released soon after the election, food industry leaders continue to wait for the rules to be issued, he said.

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