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FDA Proposing Biggest Change in Decades

posted on January 11, 2013

Mark Twain once wrote, “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise...”  That may be true, but it certainly hasn’t prevented the federal government from trying… 

The Corps of Engineers maintains a depth of 9 feet from Baton Rouge, to Minneapolis…It’s a herculean task during droughts, but the Mississippi plays a vital role in the U.S. economy. 

Another example of government intervention protecting domestic interests could be found in Washington late last week, when the Food and Drug Administration unveiled sweeping reforms of food safety guidelines. 

FDA Proposing Biggest Change in Decades

Late last week, the Food and Drug Administration proposed two new food safety rules it hopes will help prevent foodborne illness. The proposed rules implement the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA signed into law two years ago by President Obama.

While the FDA believes the guidelines would be more precautionary than reactionary, the proposal reflects some of the most sweeping reform in food safety rules in decades.

The FDA wants farmers to ensure that workers’ hands are washed, irrigation water is clean and animals are kept out of fields.

Food processors and manufacturers also have new requirements that include submitting food safety plans for preventing foodborne illness and new guidelines designed to keep operations clean.

In a 2011 outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe that claimed 33 lives, for example, FDA inspectors found pools of dirty water on the floor and old, dirty processing equipment at Jensen Farms in Colorado where the cantaloupes were grown.

Under the new rules, companies would have to identify steps they are taking to correct problems and monitor their own progress in reports to the FDA.

For the first time FDA would be authorized to regulate foods on farms. The agency is hoping to calm producer’s fears by tailoring rules only to certain fruits and vegetables that pose the greatest risks because they generally are eaten raw.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement … “FSMA’s implementation effort can serve as a role model for what can be achieved when the private and public sectors work together to achieve a common goal.”

The FDA would also be looking to ensure imported produce follows the same rules as domestic operations.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a long-time critic of the FDA, said “these proposed regulations are a sign of progress that should be welcomed by consumers and the food industry alike. Still needed are protections in the form of rules aimed at ensuring the safety of imported food, also mandated by FSMA and long overdue.”

The new regulations could cost businesses close to half a billion dollars a year to implement, but are expected to reduce the estimated 3,000 deaths a year from foodborne illness.

Tags: contamination CSPI FDA food Food inspectors GMA guidelines listeria outbreak rules