The Food and Regulatory Summit in Chicago was a great learning experience and the summit was perfectly organized. Fantastic location, good catering, interesting agenda, a lot of expertise and never a minute late.
It was the occasion for me to learn more about the Obama Food Safety Modernization Act, issued in 2011, but now in the complex implementation phase and to better understand the US law making process, as well as the overlapping competencies of their agencies (FDA, USDA, etc…). Great to know that the seafood is regulated by FDA, but the catfish from USDA. Not only in Italy is true the old saying “the exception confirms the rule”, then!
Beside the jokes, here we have the first convergence with the EU System. We are both trying to reduce our complex legislation in single Regulations (like our EU Regulation n. 1169/11 on the food information to consumers, or the new proposal of Regulation on official controls…). The outcomes of this “codification” are sadly the same as well: great pieces of legislation, but very technical, very structured and in great need of implementation acts that are really slow to be issued. On the other hand, if a doubtful rationalization could be met by these rulings, the aim of the simplification is clearly failed. As a lawyer I’m cheering because I’ll probably have work for the next decade, but for a company that means more burdens and uncertainty (the worst thing for business).
Our legislation are converging on the principle and most of the FSMA I dare to say that comes from our General Food Law (Reg. EU 178/2002), from the Hygiene Package (Reg. EU 852, 853, 854/2004 and 882/2004 on the official controls) and from the experience of the latest great food scandals.
The accent on the primary responsibility of the food business operator, both for imported and for domestic food, the strengthening of the traceability, the powers of the FDA to get access to to the records of the companies and to issue mandatory recalls are now keystones also of the US food safety legislative framework.
On the side of import, again, I have noticed interesting points of contact.
The equivalence of food safety standards as condition to preferential import requirements, the strengthening of the control power of the Authorities over the borders, as well as the accent on prevention, are common guidelines of both our systems development.
On the other hand, I am a little worried for the new expansive control power of our authorities over the domestic borders. If we can’t solve our old trade disputes in the TTIP negotiations (such as growth hormones, pesticides residues, GMO, etc….) I foresee new trade issues. Those powers, as well as the equivalence principle, could be easily used as non tariff trade barriers indeed. At the moment, anyway, due to this reason no one knows for sure if the food sector will be included in the agreement, will be part of a separate act, or will not be touched at all (but, my opinion is that the great economic benefits of a deal will prevail…). The II round of the negotiations has been postponed because of the government shutdown, so we have to wait and see.
I have to thank you again the organization for inviting me to speak and all the amazing faculties and attendants met in Chicago. It’s always a pleasure to work in the U.S., because together with the open-minded vision and the terrific expertise, every time I cross the ocean I found always a lot of kind, helpful and wonderful people.