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New food and disability rules pose challenges for small business.

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This story appears in the May 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Hundreds of thousands of independent food retailers, wholesalers, trucking companies and food distributors have a year and a half before they must comply with the new FDA rule on record keeping. Stemming from the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, the rule requires companies in the food distribution chain to obtain and record information on products received from suppliers and sold to customers.

Food retailers with 10 or more full-time employees must collect incoming data, which must be kept on the premises for six months to two years, depending on the perishability of the food. (Retailers with fewer than 10 employees are exempt.) Moreover--and this is the tricky part--food manufacturers must be able to link incoming ingredients with outgoing products. The FDA hasn't said how this should be done, but at a minimum, food manufacturers will probably have to print lot numbers or other identifying marks on outgoing products. The requirements go into effect on December 9, 2006.

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