The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday the launch of its Reportable Food Registry (RFR), an electronic system that food facilities are required to report to if they become aware of a food problem that could sicken or kill consumers.

Hamburg article pic.jpgFood facilities are now required to electronically report any food problem within 24 hours if there is a “reasonable probability” that their product could cause “serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.”

The registry will apply to all FDA-regulated food, with the exception of dietary supplements and infant formula. The mandated system will apply to pet food and animal feed and applies equally to domestic and international producers.

According to the new regulation, which took effect Tuesday, as part of the FDA Amendments Act of 2007, food facilities are not only required to report serious problems to the agency, but they also must investigate the cause of adulteration if the reportable food originated within the facility.

In addition to registered food facilities, federal, state and local governments, and local public health officials can report to the registry if they become aware of adulterated food.

Once reports are submitted, the FDA will follow up and “evaluate the course of action appropriate” said Michael Taylor, senior advisor to the Commissioner of the agency.

Taylor also pointed out that real time submission of food problems could help the agency prevent foodborne illness by swiftly removing tainted products from the food supply.

“This is intended to inform us of contamination problems before people get sick,” said Taylor during a press teleconference.

The new regulation gives the FDA the power to require that the reporting firm notify any immediate firms they supplied. The agency can also require the firm to provide more information regarding the product, its distribution, and any information on the contamination incident.

“This tool really makes this a duty that all food facilities have” said Taylor, noting that many companies already electronically notify the FDA when problems a found–a fact that Taylor said was critical for FDA discovering food problems.

The FDA hopes the system will provide them with better data on adulteration patterns, information that could help the agency develop better preventative measures.

An FDA spokesman confirmed that the agency had already received “some” reports from food facilities, but declined to say how many.