Six Signs of Potential FSMA Fakes

Beware of companies offering a 
quick-fix for FSMA compliance systems.

Since companies that grow or process fresh produce are now required to follow the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, it should be no surprise that there are people out there trying to make a buck off of all that confusion and desperation.  Some of these companies are honestly putting their best food forward in trying to meet your needs, but there are others you should worry about, especially if they say any of these six things: 

1.  “We can build you a food safety program to show your customers.”  If a food safety consultant offers to create a program for you for the sole purpose of convincing your customers you have a compliant food safety program, especially in a remarkably short time, it is not only unlikely, it’s purposely fraudulent, to say nothing of dangerous:  it could also send you to prison*.  

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2.  “We can design your food safety program, teach you to follow it, and conduct your third-party audit.”  Companies should not work both sides of the aisle.  By definition, a third-party audit cannot have a financial stake in your business.  Also, the real usefulness of a third-party audit is to identify weaknesses in your food safety program, because checks and balances are a critical part of creating an effective food safety program.
3. "Yes, we have a FSMA-compliant audit.”  If a third-party auditing company tells you that they are FSMA-compliant, you need to ask more questions about exactly what they mean by that.  Any audit can ask questions that probe your compliance, but FSMA does not have an official audit.
4. “FSMA requires that you have a computer database.”  Filing systems abound, and are usually needed if you do in fact wrangle thousands of documents a year.  They can also get really expensive for custom-builds and annual maintenance fees.  However, FSMA does not require that you keep computer records or a database – FSMA only requires you to keep accurate, consistent, and organized (that means searchable) records.  
5. “Take our class/lecture/webinar to understand the FSMA requirements.”  Many of these classes just read the federal rules, which you can do for free at the FDA website.  Remember: only some of the FSMA rules have been released, and others are still in the wings.  If you want to know what those rules are or might be, many of these classes will only tell you what is said or what is being planned: if you want to know how to comply with FSMA, you will probably need to talk to a food safety consultant.  FSMA does not tell you what to do to comply with the new rules.
6. “Take our class to become a Qualified Individual (person qualified to run a food safety program).”  Now, don’t get me wrong: I am a tremendous advocate of food safety education for professionals, and I am personally involved in a college-level food safety certificate program… but… it’s not something one learns in eight hours.  Moreover, if you have a HACCP certificate, work experience, and any bonus classes, you could already be a Qualified Individual and not know it.  At this point, there is actually only one three-day FSMA-approved class that trains on FSMA requirements, offered by the Illinois Institute of Technology.

*See Peanut Corp of America, Jensen Brothers Cantaloupe

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Nye Joell Hardy is a food safety consultant who designs food-safety-reporting apps, writes food safety programs, evaluates audits, and teaches food safety at Hartnell College in California.  She is the former Director of Food Safety for Dole Fresh Vegetables.  If you have additional questions, her email is