There were a number of food recalls last year. The latest one, a voluntary recall, was of protein bars possibly contaminated with salmonella. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that every year 3,000 Americans die of foodborne diseases, 128,000 are hospitalized, and one in six (or 48 million people) gets sick. In January 2011, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act into law. Two years later, the FDA has finally released the first two of five new rules.
It is interesting that the rules are released just a month after two non-profit advocacy groups, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health, filed a lawsuit against the FDA for not releasing the proposed rules to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. The lawsuit claimed that the FDA missed deadlines.
The first two rules released by the FDA are:
- Preventive Controls for Human Food: This rule sets safety requirements for facilities that process, package or store food for people. It requires that food facilities implement “preventive controls,” a science-based set of measures intended to prevent foodborne illness.
- Produce Safety: The food-safety law requires that science-based standards be set for the production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables, and FDA is proposing such standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce on farms.
Under the new rules, most food facilities would be required to create a written plan that does the following, according to the FDA’s website:
- Evaluates hazards that are reasonably likely to occur in food
- Specifies the steps that will be put in place to minimize or prevent those hazards
- Specifies how these controls will be monitored
- Maintains routine records of the monitoring
- Specifies what actions will be taken to correct problems that arise
“While the plan will come from the food companies, the planning and execution are done under the watchful eye of FDA, ” said Donald Kraemer, senior advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The agency will evaluate the plans and will continue to inspect the facilities,” Kraemer said.
One of the three other new rules yet to be proposed would require foreign supplier verification for importers. This rule would require importers to verify that foreign suppliers follow procedures that “provide the same level of health protection as that required of domestic food producers,” according to the FDA. The other two rules are:
- Accredited third party certification
- Preventive controls for animal food: This would implement similar preventive controls as those proposed for human food
Hopefully, it will not take the FDA another two years to release the other three food safety rules.
Image credit: Flickr user, SodanieChea