(US): New FDA standards proposed

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released new food safety rules on Friday that seek to take a more active approach in combating contaminated food. The rules are meant to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act that was signed into law in 2011.

“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a common sense law that shifts the food safety focus from reactive to preventive,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press release on Friday. “With the support of industry, consumer groups and the bipartisan leadership in Congress, we are establishing a science-based, flexible system to better prevent food-borne illness and protect American families.” 

Two new rules were unveiled on Friday that would work toward that goal. The first rule requires makers of food to be sold in the U.S. to have formal plans for preventing their food products from causing food-borne illness, and the second rule pertains to standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. That rule, which the FDA is seeking public comment on, proposes science and risk-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables.

“The FDA knows that food safety, from farm to fork, requires partnership with industry, consumers, local, state and tribal governments, and our international trading partners,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. “Our proposed rules reflect the input we have received from these stakeholders and we look forward to working with the public as they review the proposed rules.”

Large farms would be required comply with most of the produce safety requirements within 26 months after the rules are published in the Federal Register, and smaller farms would have additional time to comply. The expected cost to large farms is estimated by the FDA to be roughly $30,000, and the cost for small farms is expected to reach $13,000. But with an estimated 128,000 people hospitalized and another 3,000 dead every year because of food-borne diseases in the United States, Americans are already paying for the costs of food contamination. The hope now, with these new rules, is that preventative measures can be taken to protect consumers before they get sick.

The new rules will be available for public comment for 120 days.

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