The Food Safety Plan Builder developed by the agency and released Aug. 22 is a step-by-step program that walks companies through a series of pre-programmed questions, the answers to which automatically populate a food safety plan.
The agency created the software in part because it recognizes that some companies – especially smaller ones with limited resources to hire consultants – may need help understanding what is expected under the final rule for preventive controls for human food.
The software does this in part by showing owners and operators where to start if they haven’t had issues in their facilities before, said Jenny Scott, a senior advisor to FDA’s Office of Food Safety. She explained in a blog post that the software answers questions such as, “What should they be looking for? How do they compile their information about hazards and controls in a systematic way?”
For example, she said, the program will help companies identify if allergens such as peanuts are a hazard, and if so, how they can minimize the risks posed by properly labeling finished products, and “ensuring that the equipment used to process a peanut-containing product is properly cleaned after use to prevent the allergen from contaminating any products that are subsequently processed on the equipment.”
In addition, the program will help companies establish best practices to ensure preventive controls are working and what corrective actions to take if they are not, she said.
While companies will need to provide FDA inspectors with a copy of the plan when they visit their facility, the software does not automatically share the report with the agency.
“FDA will not track or monitor use of the Food Safety Plan Builder, nor will it have access to any content or documents developed using this plan,” the agency stressed in multiple communications.
Using the software is completely optional, but having a food safety plan is not, Scott stresses.
“Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and about 3,000 people from food borne illnesses each year in the United States,” she writes in an agency blog post.
She added, “In many cases, these illnesses can be avoided by preventing contaminants from reaching food, and by stopping contaminated food from reaching consumers – exactly what these food safety plans aim to do.”