It seems that regulations are ever present in today's world. The vending industry has been hit hard recently with calorie disclosure, beverage taxes, and the looming threat of a surprise federal inspection. The last has happened to at least one operator. Not long ago, he contacted me and shared the event of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) arriving at his warehouse for a surprise inspection for the Domestic Food Safety Compliance Program last summer. The operator believes they got his information after he complied with the Food Facility Registration in 2014 and then used the fact that his office coffee service business, which was perhaps 1 percent of his revenue at the time, recently started selling in other states.
I had to ask about the Food Facility Registration. It turns out it's under the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which was signed into law in 2011. In short, all business owners who hold food for human or animal consumption are required to register with the FDA between October 1 and December 31 of each even-numbered year. This new biennial registration amended a previous one-time registration under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. What about the Domestic Food Safety Compliance Program? This was a bit harder to find, but I found documentation about what the inspector looks for, such as food and color additives as well as foodborne biological hazards. See compliance document manual here.
A 3 hour reality check
The operator who experienced the surprise inspection reports that the FDA spent over three hours asking a multitude of questions and inspecting his facility from top to bottom, inside and out. They checked everything that the County Health Inspector, City Fire Marshall and Insurance Inspector would check and much more. They wanted procedures for product recalls, food dating, food handling, how things were disposed of, where products came from, etc. They noted any boxes on the floors, checked seals on garage doors, alarms on coolers/freezers, temperatures, truck coolers, etc. The operator runs what he calls a "pretty tight ship" and came through with only a warming about having the garage door open a crack for ventilation (it created an access point for bugs/rodents, which were not a problem).
This operator, like many, was subject to federal inspection likely due to serving multiple states. He was prepared and his story should certainly inspire others to keep vigilant with the FDA regulations as well as have a plan in place for surprise inspections. One question he asked is that if a small amount of interstate commerce opened him up to this, is the entire vending industry also subject because of the federal calorie disclosure rule? The way I read the Food Facility Registration, I think any registered facility is at risk of the inspection. With the New Year comes a lot of personal reflection, but don't forget about your business. Reflect on your internal processes and strive to make 2017 a strong year inside and outside of your organization.