One of the biggest enforcement tools the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the power to withdraw a food facility’s registration. That’s what the agency did to shut down an organic peanut butter plant in New Mexico in 2012 to help bring a 20-state Salmonella Brendeney outbreak under control. ucm331976It would seem that such a powerful tool — and one that has been around since shortly after 9/11— wouldn’t be something a company would overlook, but that’s what happened during the last renewal period when FDA saw a 14-percent drop-off in the number of registered food facilities from January 2014 to January 2015. FDA’s consulting firm for registrations, Registrar Corp., figures that many of those failing to register simply forget to do it. For the upcoming Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2016, period for food facilities that manufacture or produce food for distribution in the United States, FDA has been working to get the word out since July. That’s when the agency published amendments to the Registration of Food Facilities as a final rule updating FDA’s food facility registration requirements. The rule supports the agency’s efforts to act quickly in response to food-related emergencies and is meant to help FDA use its inspectional resources more efficiently. Food facilities that manufacture/process, pack, or hold food for consumption in the U.S. are required to register with FDA, and this final rule adds some new provisions to the current regulations to help put into practice certain aspects of FSMA that were effective upon enactment of the law. Those provisions include requiring an email address for registration, renewal of registration every two years, and an assurance from all food facilities that FDA will be permitted to inspect the facility at the times and in the manner permitted by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In addition, the final rule adds certain new requirements designed to improve the food facility registration system. All food facility registrations are required to be submitted to FDA electronically, although this requirement does not take effect until Jan. 4, 2020. Renewals currently can be accomplished by mail, fax, or online, or facilities may authorize a third party to carry out the task. Renewals are required no matter when the initial registration occurred. Food facilities are now required to renew their registrations in the final quarter of even- numbered years. Distributing food in the U.S. with an expired registration is a FSMA violation. Both domestic and foreign companies are required to register, and foreign facilities may designate a U.S. agent. Registrar Corp. acts as an agent for more than 13,000 facilities around the world. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)