Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

Food safety

Idaho farmers and ranchers raise quality food products. Some of the most important food products produced include dairy, beef, potatoes, wheat and barley.

Farmers and ranchers have a duty under the law to make sure these products are safe for human consumption. Listeria-tainted cantaloupe was the source of the most deadly food-borne illness in the U.S. in the last decade. At last count 29 people were dead and 139 were sickened. The cantaloupe was grown in Colorado and lawsuits have been filed against the grower.

While state law provides some protection to the consumer, Federal law has been passed to address food safety. The Food Safety Modernization Act (“FSMA”) was signed into law in 2011 and allows the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to detain food products which it believes are adulterated (i.e. tainted) or misbranded. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by “shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.”

Owners of most food handling facilities are now required by FSMA to conduct a hazard analysis and identify and evaluate known or reasonably foreseeable hazards and implement preventative controls. Records must be kept of the effectiveness of those controls. The owner of the food handling facility must also have a written plan that documents and describes the procedures used by the facility to comply with FSMA requirements. The FDA will inspect most food handling facilities in the years to come.

Also, most manufacturing, processing, packing and holding facilities of food will be required to register with the FDA starting in October – December, 2012.

Farmers and ranchers who fail to comply with the FSMA may have their products detained and may be prohibited from selling their food products.

– Lance J. Schuster is a lawyer at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or

Skip to content