The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week finalized the first two of seven major rules under the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FDA’s action is the first step in putting greater emphasis on the prevention of foodborne illness, holding imported food to the same food safety standard as domestically produced food and developing a nationally integrated food safety system in partnership with state and local authorities.

“Today’s announcement sets us on the path to a modern food safety system that will prevent illnesses and continue to build confidence in the safety of the food served to our families every day,” says Dr. Stephen Ostroff, acting FDA commissioner.

The two rules finalized by the FDA, the preventive controls rules, focus on implementing modern food manufacturing processes for both human and animal foods. The preventive controls rules require human and animal food facilities to develop and implement written food safety plans that indicate the possible problems that could affect the safety of their products, and outline steps the facility would take to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of those problems occurring.

This means food companies will be accountable for monitoring their facilities and identifying any potential hazards in their products and prevent those hazards.  Under these rules, the FDA will be able to assess these systems and their outcomes to prevent problems, will better be able to respond when food safety problems occur, and can better protect the safety of manufactured food.

The preventive controls final rules are the result of an extensive outreach effort, and incorporate thousands of public comments, including input from farmers, consumers, the food industry and academic experts, to create a flexible and targeted approach to ensuring food safety.

“We’ve been working with states, food companies, farmers and consumers to create smart, practical and meaningful rules,” says Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA. “And we have made a firm commitment to provide guidance, technical assistance and training to advance a food safety culture that puts prevention first.”

Once the FSMA rules are finalized in 2016, they are expected to work together to strengthen the food safety system and better protect public health.