New food safety rules, first in decades
For the first time in decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposed sweeping food safety rules. In response to recent deadly outbreaks, the new rules would require farmers and food companies to be more vigilant in protecting consumers against tainted food products.
The legislation is expected to cost close to half a billion dollars a year to enforce, but agency officials hope the measure will reduce the estimated 3,000 deaths annually that result from foodborne illness. Since last summer, outbreaks of listeria in cheese and salmonella in peanut butter, mangos and cantaloupe have been linked to more than 400 illnesses and as many as seven deaths, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the new proposed precautions: making sure workers wash their hands, irrigation water is clean, and that animals stay out of fields. Food manufacturers must also submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean.
The FDA’s deputy commissioner for food says he believes the rules will help prevent national outbreaks of food contamination.
It is the first time the FDA has had real authority to regulate food on farm. And in an effort to help ward off farmer protests, the farm rules will apply only to certain fruits and vegetables that pose the greatest risk, like melons, leafy greens, berries and other raw foods. Farms that produce canned and cooked products like these, for example, would not be regulated.
Food industry leaders say the success of the new rules will depend on how much money Congress gives to help fund regulation. The manufacturing and farm rules are only one part of the food safety law. The bill also authorized more surprise inspections and gives the FDA additional powers to shut down food facilities. Additionally, the law requires stricter standards on imported foods.
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