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Standard Issues New food and disability rules pose challenges for small business.

By Stephen Barlas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hundreds of thousands of independent food retailers,wholesalers, trucking companies and food distributors have a yearand a half before they must comply with the new FDA rule on recordkeeping. Stemming from the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, the rule requirescompanies in the food distribution chain to obtain and recordinformation on products received from suppliers and sold tocustomers.

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

While the FDA estimates compliance will cost companies onlyabout $1,000 a year, another rule brewing at the Department ofJustice could cost small businesses considerably more. Thedepartment's proposed revisions to the Americans withDisabilities Act would force companies to carry out costlyconstruction projects.

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