BY: PRAVEENA THIRUNATHAN & LILY YANG
How did the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) come about? How does this affect the job market of food scientists? What can we look forward to for the future of FSMA? Tune in to “At the Table”, Science Meets Foods’ quarterly joint-venture video-blog installment. Joining us this quarter are food industry lawyers, Tony Pavil (Cargill) and Ricardo Carvajal (Hyman, Phelps & McNamara). In this episode, they discuss food science, food regulations, FSMA, getting into the job market, skills needed, and their involvement with IFT and IFT’s Food Law and Regulation Division.
As IFT divisions are the core networking groups of the IFT community, Tony and Ricardo discuss their support of IFT and its mission. As industry members, they have found their +12 years involvement with the division as a fabulous way to contribute and network with fellow colleagues. Needless to say, friendships are definitely formed through IFT.
How did FSMA come about?
Well, it’s been a long time coming. Ricardo, having worked with the FDA, provided a quick background history on how food safety issues materialized, and quickly discussed the necessity for industry and consumer advocates to join forces to bring the food system up-to-date. The foundation of FSMA is HACCP, short for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. This system was developed to prevent chemical, biological, and physical hazards from compromising the quality of processed food. From there, FSMA was developed as a way to build upon HACCP. Although FSMA was finalized in 2011, the complexities inherent in law-making means that the FDA have only just begun implementation in 2018. However, the need to bring structure, standardization, and safety to the industry is paramount. So while it has taken the FDA several years to develop FSMA, from the rule-making standpoint, and from the historical context and perspective, we can reflect on the origins of HACCP.
So what does this mean for the future of food science (and food safety) with FSMA?
Although this is a time of growth, it also comes with growing pains; but thankfully the world will always need food. FSMA’s impacts will be felt not only within the United States, but also globally, as there will always be the need to build internal capacity within the industry that will resonate to governmental organizations, academia, and further. Not only will technical jobs grow, but so will the less-technical and more soft-skill applicable opportunities. New opportunities are arising within companies as they recognize the long-term endeavors required to build and maintain the structures outlined through FSMA to create a safe food system. Additionally, as companies develop, so too will alternative opportunities like policywork and consulting.
FSMA will positively impact and affect everything in the inter- and multidisciplinary world of food science, from process engineering, product development, quality and safety, to consumer sciences, etc. Basically, whatever you’re learning in the food science realm will lead to great opportunities. Keep in mind, no career paths are straight ahead; some will divert before you discover the specific interest that garner your interest. Keep an open mind, talk to people, ask questions, and garner as much experience as you can in an open world of opportunities. Get to an IFT annual meeting or go to IFTSA events, local affiliates/chapters, within the chapter, and get involved. And in all of that, be flexible and explore different opportunities as they arise!
- There are tremendous opportunities for everyone; these opportunities aren’t going away because they are food needs — not just scientific, but more rounded — that must be met, globally (i.e. malnutrition, affordability, food supply, palatability, etc.)
- The road can be winding; set yourself up to gain experience, exposure.
- Be curious; act on your curiosity.
- Look fly~ (Invest in good neckwear, lol).
And remember friends, if all else fails, you can go to law school!